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The Reason I Write


I am the kind of person who doesn’t like writing down articles or journals.  I avoid it with a childish reason that it gives me a very hard time.   It even takes me much time to write a single paragraph.  In addition, I consider myself among those people who are not really good at grammar and sentence construction.  I will avoid it as much as I can.  But what if it was God who would ask me to write?  Maybe, my respond will be like Moses’ when God called him to lead the tribes of Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land.  And it was somehow like that how I responded.

I asked God, “What shall I write about?”

He answered me, “You will write about the experiences who had with me.”

“But I am not good at writing and English is not my thing.  It gives me very hard time.  Furthermore, I don’t have enough experience s, unlike my friends, to make a good article that will interest people.”   I argued.

“Just do it and trust me.”  God said.

Just do it and trust me.  Well, if it is God who told you these words, then you just simply follow.

I created a blog account and started writing since the beginning of 2011.  And every time I write, I open my heart and mind with trust and obedience to God.  He gives me the topic to write about.  He gives me the right words to put together.  He also provides me the means to learn the things which are difficult for me in term of writing.

He is my inspiration.  I get everything from Him who is the very reason why I am writing my own blog.  I want my family and friends to get to know how wonderful it is to have an intimate relationship with God.

I praise God for He has allowed me to finish 40 blogs since I begun writing down about His goodness in my life. This is already a record.  Writing this much is already a great blessing from the Lord.  It is an accomplishment that if without the guidance of God, would be impossible for me to accomplish.

How can I not write about these great experiences? They have blessed and changed my life.  They are so great that need to be written down, put inside my treasure box, and share to as many as people as I can.  So many people may also acknowledge our Almighty God.

My pleasure is not in writing, but in my God who is the reason why I write.

 

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Finishing Strong


My mission here in Malawi is now heading to its conclusion.  In these remaining six months, every decision and action that I will make will determine the outcome of my mission, they are more important than what I accomplished in the past year.   These months will determine the outcome of the mission that the Lord has entrusted to me.  It is so important that I must finish strong in this mission.

Finishing strong doesn’t only mean that I will animate more activities for the community members.  It also doesn’t only mean to accomplish more great things.  To finish strong is more than just the activities or accomplishments that I will be doing in the remaining months.  It is more about what will I become in six months.  It is about my being.

I may accomplish big tasks or build a “legacy” for the community of CFCFFL Malawi, but they will all mean nothing if I will not be able to get at least one step closer in accomplishing the greatest accomplishment for a human being – HOLINESS.

To finish strong is to live a more prayerful life.  It has been my desire to be a man of prayer and to be able to pray in a certain level in which by God’s grace I become more divine than human.   A life of prayers that is like a “spiritual marriage” where my whole being is captivated by God and everything that I do is in complete in union to Him.

I will finish strong by persistently building and guarding my purity.  I will do everything to protect my body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  To finish strong is to build and maintain a life of Chastity, to live a life of purity.  God knew that by the virtue of chastity, I can become one step closer to holiness and therefore, one step closer to Him.

Becoming the person that God wants me to become is very important and what I learn is also important.  It also means learning good things and skills that will make me a better person and will bless others.  Using my remaining time to learn new things that God wants me to learn is also a way of finishing strong.

Finishing strong is also to care and to love more.  To show more care and love to the people who God has brought in my life here in Malawi:   Community members, neighbors, and friends.   And also, to extend my care and love to strangers around me, especially to those who have been deprived of good things on earth.

I can still remember the personal goal I have set before starting this mission, to get closer to God and bring along as many people as I can.  It is very important that I do not lose track on it because it is one of the reasons of my mission.  It can help me finish strong by doing my best in reaching this goal.

The time is running out.   My remaining months is running out.  There are still more things to be done and by God’s grace, I may be able to be part of them.  I have no idea what beholds me in this remaining six months.  But one thing is clear to me, to finish strong in this mission for the greater glory of God.

We Are Servants


Meet Mr. Enok Banda, a 47-year-old Malawian house servant of my host family, The Mbekeani.  He is an amazing guy because of his dedication, loyalty, passion and commitment in serving the family.  He has been faithfully serving the Mbekani Family for 27 straight years.  Wow, it is truly amazing!  I have been living with him for more than a year now and in this span of time, there are lots of things that I have realized because of this humble servant.

“A Banda” (Mr. Banda in English) as we used to call him, is very dedicated, committed and passionate with his household obligations.  He cooks for us, he washes the dishes, cleans the house, wax the floor, he opens the garage gate, washes the laundries (of course not including mine) and other more household jobs.  He does them with passion and without any complains.

He is always in the house doing chores except on Sundays afternoon since it is his time off.  As I observe this man, I had noticed that it seems he has already given up his own pleasure, desires and dreams in exchange of serving the family.  It is not that he is being abused; it seems more that he has chosen this path.

I asked him about what he thinks about his work and he answered me with great joy that he is happy, feel fulfilled and proud in serving the family.  I also asked him if he is not getting tired of all the work, he answered me “I am a servant and I am just doing what I was told to do”.

In serving the Lord, it is very important that we always wear a heart of a servant, a heart of total obedience.  A heart that is always ready to do whatever He said, no matter how impossible it may seem to be.  There should be no room for “buts”, “ifs” and complains because as servants who are basically possessions of the Master, we are just doing what was told us to do.

Happiness and joy should always be in our hearts as we say “YES” and “DO” the will of God.  We are serving God and not man; we should be happy that we have the privilege to be able to serve Him.  Joy should be in our heart because we are instruments of God for the proclamation of His love and mercy.

Serving God must be a pleasure and not a burden.  Our master is not a man but God who shows justice and mercy to those who serve Him.  If serving a king can give a man wealth, power and glory, serving our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings, will surely give us more than these earthly things, EVERLASTING LIFE with Him in His Kingdom.

We must take our roles as servants of God with such great respect.  Many are called but only few are chosen.  What accomplishment can be better than to simply do His commands?  Is there anything more fulfilling that to be counted worthy to be instruments of God despite our weaknesses and sinfulness?  We must take pride in the Lord because we are not just slaves but also friends of God since He has revealed Himself to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we serve our Master and take pride in Him, humility must rule us.  Let us be reminded that we are nothing without Him; a slave is nothing without His master; we cannot possibly do any of His will without Him.  We are doing His work not to gain anything from Him but we are doing His work simply because we want Him to be known throughout the earth and be glorified.  We must know by heart that our work is all about Him.

Lastly, this work of being God’s servant is a work of a lifetime that requires great sacrifices.  He desires His servants to give up their lives for His sake; to give up our own pleasure, dreams, desires for the greater glory of His name. And as we do these, our Master, who is just and righteous, will reward us in the end of times.

We are just servants we are just doing what was told us to do.

The Only Certain Thing


 

A man’s life is full of uncertain things. There are so many things that we don’t know.  We can’t tell what will happen next.  The technology today is so advance that it can help man to determine the outcome of things.  Computations and devices can forecast the weather or determining the trend of global economy.  But in spite of these methods and even how far they get advanced, man still doesn’t have guarantee to many things.  Man doesn’t know when is his love will come.  He also doesn’t know if he will still have a job the following years or until when he can still work.  There are so many things in this world that cannot be measured, determined and forecasted.  We are all living our lives with uncertainties.

My life here in Malawi also has been full of uncertainties.  There are many things that cannot be forecasted even how good and detailed my plans are.  We do not know if it is going to rain, get hot or get cold tomorrow.  We don’t know when the next electric blackout is and for how long.  The supply of water from the faucet is also unassured.  We are currently experiencing fuel crisis for the past months and no one knows when the next ration of fuel will be.

Despite all these uncertainties that lie before me, there is only one thing that I am very certain of – GOD LOVES ME, period!   No scientific analysis, mathematical calculation and even the most advance apparatus can measure or prove it.  I don’t even need to consult them to be certain about this fact.  I just need to look around me, look at the blessings that I have received from God, remember the great things that He has done for me, count on the things that I have right now.  I just need to look inside my heart to be affirmed with absolute certainty that God loves me, no matter what happens.

There is saying that the only certain thing is uncertainty.  I proved that wrong because God is a certain God and His love for each and everyone us is certain.  So the next time uncertain things fall before me.  I will just look at and hold on tight to the CERTAIN ONE.

The Joy of Coming Home


Airports, train stations and bus terminals tend to be unfriendly ang even dull places.  At this time of year, though, they are settings for joyful meetings that can bring a tear to a bystrander’s eye.  Little children run to greet their grandparents with a hug ang a kiss.   Bouquets appear as couples are reunited.  Tears of glad reliev greet a beloved family member, home on leave from military service.

Why are reunion scenes so moving?  Isn’t it because, deep within us, they bear witness to our longing and appreciation for relationships that bring us joy?  God created us to flourish and delight in intimacy and community, in loving and being loved.  In addition, he created us to know these good gifts, first of all, in our relationship with Him.

This is the “good news of great joy” that the angel announced to sheperds on the night that changed history.  God loved us so much that he sent His only son to lead us home, by the power of His Holy Spirit.  Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, there is nothing to prevent us from coming into the family circle of God’s own life.

This advent, the Father is inviting us to come home to Him.  He wants you to know the joy that never fails – even in times of trials, even when human relationships distress or disappoint.  He is ready to remove every barrier, both big and small, to your relationship with Him.  Therefore, He invites us to come to Him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

If you haven’t discovered it already, you’ll see that the consional – like the airport – can be a scene a joyful meeting, too.

On The Liturgy


From the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

What is the liturgy?

The liturgy is the celebration of the mystery of Christ and in particular of his paschal mystery.  Through the exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ the liturgy manifests in signs and brings about the sanctification of human kind.  The public worship which is due to God is offered by the Mystical Body of Christ, that is, by its head and by its members. (n218)

 

What place does the liturgy occupy in the life of the Church?

The liturgy as the sacred action par excellence is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and  it is likewise the font from which all her power flows.  Through the liturgy Christ continues the work of our redemption in, with, and through his Church. (n219)

It Just Keeps On Pouring!


In my 14 months of staying here in Malawi, my memorable and wonderful experiences just keep on coming.  Blessings are like rains, they are pouring hard.  This is the continuation of my previous blog on the good things I have experienced for the first time.

It was my first time…

  1. To design a newspaper advertisement for a big electronic company.
  2. To receive extra compensation for my work. Woooh!
  3. To be a freelance graphic designer.
  4. To have a vehicular accident.  But the best thing is I was perfectly fine.  Nothing serious had happened, it was only the front bumper of the car which got destroyed.
  5. To give a CLS talk for the couples of CFC FFL.
  6. To reach Paris, France, (It was Just in the airport, hehe).
  7. To see the Eiffel Tower even just a glimpse
  8. To reach Amsterdam, Netherlands (though it was just in the airport, still it was Amsterdam).
  9. To reach Nigeria, and I STAYED there for 3 weeks and went to 3 different states.
  10. To attend the World Youth Day!  Praise God for His gift.
  11. To celebrate my birthday in two different countries, France and Spain.
  12. To reach Spain for the World Youth Day.
  13. To meet Spanish, Polish, Brazilian, and other races at the World Youth Day.
  14. To get lost in an airport. Hahaha, I really won’t forget this.  Thanks for the people who helped me, you know who you are.
  15. To eat freshly picked peaches, avocados, passion fruit, strawberries, raspberries, grapes and blueberries.
  16. To be caught and fine for a driving violation – an expired car registration.  It was an honest mistake.
  17. To be hosted and eat in a hotel for free.
  18. To experience a canceled flight.  It was a hassle but blessed experience.
  19. To meet a Malawian who knows so many things about the political history of the Philippines.  He shared to me about the our previous presidents: Marcos, Aquino, and Ramos… Until the present government.  He admires Filipinos so much.  Wow, that is great to hear.
  20. To eat Chinese food in Malawi.  Yes, you can also find Chinese food here.  Is there a place on earth where there is no Chinese? How about Filipinos?
  21. To attend a funeral service based on the tradition of Malawi.
  22. To attend a very long Holy Mass (4 hours)
  23. To travel alone via airplane.
  24. To see Pope Benedict XVI in person.  Being with his presence was full of peace and joy.
  25. To queue for fuel, for 4 hours.
  26. To own a pair of Crocs slippers.
  27. To reach Kenya.  I stayed there for a night in a hotel.  Pampered!
  28. To stay for 12 hours in an airport (Barajas Airport, Madrid).
  29. To sleep inside an airport.  I remembered the movie “The Terminal” of Tom Hanks in this.
  30. To blog

I am proud of these experiences because I believe that they are all gifts and I find joy from the Giver of these gifts. These experiences contribute, in one way or another, to the welfare of my being.   To delight in them is to delight in the Lord.  I still haven’t written down the others because it would take me much time to remember and write them.  And the best thing is that there are still so much more to come and I am excited about them.

Lord, just let it pour down.  With my two arms wide open, I will catch as many blessings as I can!

The Brighter Side


Last Friday, I had my twice-a-month household meeting with YFL Lunzu.  I met some members at the parish hall which was our meeting place and we went straight to the house of a member to have the meeting there.  His house is in a village (rural area) and the only way to reach it is to use a private transport like a car, motorcycle or bicycle.  But normally, the people go there by foot.

And since there was an unavailability of any private vehicles, we decided to walk.  Together with 3 brothers, we trekked for an hour and crossed vacant Maize (Corn) fields.  The sun was so hot that it will make you sweat just by standing under it, and the wind was strong and blew the dust unto our faces.  The four of us just got a taste of what a Christian life is all about – love!

Before we left our meeting place and proceed to our destination, we had a short discussion on how long it will take us to reach our destination.  They say it would be 1 hour.  To encourage everyone, I just told them that we will do this for our love to our brother, who is the host for the household.  He has been hoping that we can at last hold our household at his place.

By the grace of God, everyone agreed to walk and got excited about it.  I honestly had some worries that moment because I didn’t know how everyone would react with the decision and I know that walking that far was not a good idea.  And in the end, I stopped worrying and trusted everything to God.

And God blessed us during our walk.

The long walk became an opportunity for us 4 to get to know each other as we listen to everyone’s stories.  We shared laughter, opinions about things happening to Malawi, and insights regarding YFL.  I had chances to share more about the community and how the Lord blesses me through it.

The walk also forged our brotherhood.  There were some difficulties in carrying the guitar enclosed in a heavy wooden hard case, the walk was very tiring and exhausting, and I saw how everyone had cared for one another.  Someone shared his bottle of water to everyone.  Everyone shared contribution by carrying the heavy load.  Everyone became very optimistic and hopeful for the sake of those who were tired.

Along the walk, everyone was telling jokes about the food that our host would prepare.  Different kinds of cook were raised: chicken stew, beef in tomato sauce, fried rice and iced cold Fanta.  We continued on thinking about food that would be served even we know that it would not be possible since our host’s family also has financial difficulties.  I saw that everyone was really hoping that something great from the Lord will happen when we reach our destination.  This is God’s way of teaching us how to hope

Everyone was smiling and laughing as sweat runs on our faces, and tiredness and exhaustion consume our bodies.  Everyone was hoping that God will bring great things.  And when we finally reached the house, great things surprised us.  We were welcomed by our friend and his family with gladness.  Drinks and food were served during the household.  We sat on soft and comfortable couch.  “This is resurrection after death”, everyone was joking.   The best part was, everyone had a wonderful affirming household about God’s calling for us to be evangelistic and missionary.

We ended our household with high spirit.  Everyone was refreshed and rejuvenated by the food, couch and the by household.  It is already dark when we left the place, and there were so much happiness, excitement and hope in our hearts that we forgot about the long walk we had.   This is the brighter side.

By the way, we again walked going back to our meeting place.  It was really a great and memorable experience.

Trivia: I really love “long travel” (private or public transport) especially when I’m with my friends, because it gives us opportunity to get to know and bond with each other.

God’s Greatness in Nigeria


I went to Nigeria in September 2011 and stayed there for 3 weeks to help the community CFC Youth for Family and Life (CFC YFL) conduct activities for the youth.  It was a big blessing for me to share the love of the Lord Jesus Christ to some youth of Nigeria.  The experience was full of surprises and overwhelmingly life changing.

Like any other mission trip I had, this was another opportunity to serve God, but most especially, it was a divine privilege to behold His unmatched greatness and goodness to this country.

I traveled alone from Malawi to Nigeria, vice versa.  And my flights from and back to Malawi were totally awesome:  two all-expense-paid hotel accommodations, great foods, I met God sent people who helped and guided me, and I reached my destinations safe and sound.  It was full of divine intervention.

On the day of my arrival in Abuja, a “Pinoy salu-salo” (Filipino feast) welcomed me.  I met Filipino members of CFCFFL Nigeria and other more Filipinos, who were having a small celebration at the Philippine Embassy.  I was really excited to meet in person the people who I had only communicated with through the internet.

I was glad that I have finally met Uncle Nestor and Aunt Annie Padalhin (Uncle Nestor is the Philippine Ambassador to Nigeria and also a CFCFFL Servant Leader there), and Theresa Santos, the YFL member who came from Seattle USA to heed the call of the Lord for her to share God’s love for more people.

Our first activity was the Youth Camp.   There were 77 participants from 5 different states of Nigeria (Kaduna, Lagos, Jos, Abuja and Anambra).  We originally projected to be able to gather just 40 participants, but the plan of the Lord was far better and greater than ours.  During the last day of preparation, more texts and calls were received that more youth wanted to attend the activity.  We were overwhelmed that moment.  It was a blessing at the same time a concern because we were thinking on how we are going to accommodate everyone.

But God is really good.  He brought more participants to the camp and it seemed impossible to manage this number of participants without sacrificing the quality and content.  God is indeed a God of all possibilities.  He sent more people to serve.  He knew very well that we would be outnumbered, so at the same time, He brought more people to the service team.  At first, I thought that the service team would only be composed of 5 people but the Lord reminded me to never doubt, just trust.

That trust led us to unexpected blessings.  The Lord provided more than enough resources that made the Youth Camp memorable for everyone.  He sent generous people who contributed time, talent and treasure.  People unexpectedly and generously contributed what they have.  And the sum of their contributions was, everyone genuinely felt God’s generosity.

Another amazing thing was, all members of the service team professed that the Youth Camp has changed their lives.  They also felt God’s love and goodness during the activities and sessions and have brought them to some personal realizations such as “God loves us so much and we need to share that love to as many people as possible”.

Despite some challenges with the electricity that impaired our sound system and lighting during the sessions, with the scorching heat of the sun that made everyone sleepy (we used tent as our session area) and include the strong wind and rain on the last day that devastated our session hall, God has made the participants very attentive and receptive all throughout the camp.

As I led everyone to a general pray-over and to the “commItment to Christ ceremony”, I was really amazed on how strong was the manifestation of God’s Spirit.  He touched everyone’s life, thus gave them conviction to stand up as a sign of their decision to follow Christ as their Lord.  It is because of the Lord’s goodness, all participants, including members of the service team, was so inspired and made personal decisions to follow Jesus Christ as their God.

He also touched me as I was loosing my voice during my talk.  I was praying that my voice may last until the end of the session.  I really cannot explain it, I was able to finished the session by God’s grace.

Happiness and gladness to everyone was seen as we had our entertainment night to end the second day.  Everyone was singing, dancing and celebrating for the goodness of the Lord.

On the following day and last day of the Camp, we ended the program with a short awarding of recognition and few sharing among the inspiring members of service team and participants.  I saw how happy and excited everyone was, for everyone had experience the loving grace of the Lord all through out the activity.

Thanks to all the effort and contribution of all members of the service team.   These people were so inspiring for they have sacrificed much time, talent and treasure for the furtherance of the mission of the Lord in Nigeria.  They have been loyal to their calling to evangelize and to do mission work.  Many people and youth have experienced God’s love through their sacrifices and love.  It was really a great blessing to be able to work with them in God’s vineyard.

The Lord has continued to shower me His overflowing goodness until the end of my mission in Nigeria; He did not stop in the Youth Camp.  My mission partner and I stayed in Abuja for two more weeks and conducted Covenant Recollections and trainings for the sustenance of the youth ministry.

After some more activities, the YFL members are really looking forward to experience more the love of God for them.  I left Nigeria without any assurance that I will be back.  One thing I am assured of, God will continue to bless everyone and allow us to experience more of His great love.

With all of the great things that happened during the camp and in this whole mission trip, I would like to say that God is indeed great, all the time.

 

for more pictures of the Youth Camp, kindly visit this link:  http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.243691739008211.72028.100001021614080&type=3

How to Make a “Home Made Mosquito Trap” Against Dengue and Malaria?


  1. Get a large 2 liter Coke/Pepsi, etc plastic soda bottle.  This is the kind that takes two hands to hold onto.  Empty the bottle by drinking or draining the content.  Take the plastic cap off and throw it in the trash can.
  2. Just below the point where the neck of the bottle straightens out into the body of the bottle, cut it across.  So now you gave a funnel and a cylinder.
  3. Invert the funnel into the cylinder.  It should fit tightly.  A piece of tape will seal it but may not be necessary.
  4. Wrap a piece of black paper or plastic around the cylinder to make a nice warm comfortable place for mosquitos to hide.
  5. Fill about 1/3 of the cylinder part with a mixture of dry yeast, warm water and sugar.  Use 1 tablespoon of yeast (which can be brought at the local grocery).  Make the water just at the temperature where it is only warm to your soft skin like babies milk.  Use 1/3 cup of sugar.  Mix all together and pour into the funnel/ cylinder.
  6. Place it at dark corner inside or around the house.  Making several traps increases its effectiveness.
  7. The trap works by creating CO2 with the sugar and yeast mixture.  This gas escapes and is seen by mosquitoes as attractive.  They will fly through the funnel and then get stuck to the sugar-coated sides or just wear themselves out trying to find an exit.
  8. Change the yeast, sugar, water mixture for about every two weeks or so.
Please, care to share to your neighbor, friends and relatives.  Let’s all fight the carrier of these deadly diseases.
                               

Saint Faustina and the Promises of The Divine Mercy


Saint Faustina Kowalska, a Polish Nun who died in 1938 at the age of 33, was beatified on April 18, 1993 and was canonized on April 30, 2000 by Pope John Paul II, who as archbishop of Crakow, had re-introduced her cause of beatification in 1978.  Six months later he was elected Pope.

With the words “Oh what great graces I will grant to souls who recite this chaplet,” Jesus gave Saint Faustina “The Chaplet of Mercy” with instructions to make a Novena, in particular for nine days from Good Friday to the following Saturday.

Jesus also asked that at three O’Clock, the hour at which He died, we should say the “Three O’Clock” prayer saying “At three O’Clock implore My Mercy, especially for sinners…  I will refuse nothing to the soul that makes a request of Me in virute of My Passion.” (1320)…  “Run through the whole world and tell of My mercy.”

He requested that she paint His image with the signature JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU which should be venerated, first in her Chapel and then throughout the world.  In her diary, she records promises connected with the Devotion to the Divine Mercy.

  • “The souls that will say this Chaplet will be embraced by My Mercy during their life time and especially at the hour of their death.”
  • “To Priests who proclaim My Mercy, I will give wondrous power and touch the hearts of those whom they will speak.” (1521)
  • “I promise that the soul that will venerate My image will not perish.” (48) “The two rays denote blood and water… These two rays issued from the very depths of My tender mercy when My agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross.” (299)
  • “Souls who spread the honour of My Mercy… at the hour of death I will not be a Judge for them but a Merciful Saviour.”(1057)
  • “The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners.  Know My daughter that this prayer is always heard and answered.” (1397)
  • “I desire that the Feast of Mercy be solembly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter.  The soul that will go to Confession within 8 days and receive Holy Communion and spend some time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament on this day shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (699)
  • “When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the Just Judge but as the Merciful Saviour.” (154)
  • “Mankind will not, have peace until it turns (as to a source of help) to the Fount of My Mercy.” (669)

Let us all pray and have a Devotion to the Divine Mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU!!!

(click for guide on how to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet)  https://vlramos.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/how-to-pray-the-divine-mercy-chaplet/

God Judges No One


By Fr. Ronald Rolheiser (The Catholic Herald – The Last Word)

There’s a question about God’s goodness as old as religion itself: how can an all-good God send someone to hell for all eternity?  How can God be all-merciful and all-loving if there is eternal punishment?

It’s a false question.  God doesn’t send anyone to hell and God doesn’t deal out eternal punishment.  God offers us life and the choice is ours as to whether we accept that.  God, Jesus tells us, doesn’t judge anyone.  We judge ourselves.  God doesn’t create hell and God doesn’t send anyone to hell.   But that doesn’t mean that hell doesn’t exist and that isn’t a possibility for us.

Here, in essence, is how Jesus explains this.   God sends his life into the world and we can choose that life or reject it.  We judge ourselves in making that choice.  If we choose life we are ultimately choosing heaven.  If we reject life we end up living outside of life and that ultimately is hell.   But we make that choice; God doesn’t send us anywhere.  Moreover, hell is not a positive punishment created by God to make us suffer.  Hell is the absence of something – namely, living inside of the life that’s offered to us.

To say all of this is not to say that hell isnt’s real or that it isn’t a real possibility for every person.  Hell is real, but it isn’t a positive punishment created by God to deal out justice or vengeance or to prove to the hard-hearted and unrepentant that they made a mistake.  Hell is the absence of life, of love, of forgiveness, of community, and God doesn’t send anyone there.  We can end up there, outside of love and community, but that’s a choice we make if we, culpably, reject these as they are offered to us during our lifetime.  Hell, as John Shea once said, is never a surprise waiting for a happy person, it’s the full flowering of a life that rejects love, forgiveness, and community.  Satre once famously stated that hell is the other person.  The reverse is true.  Hell is what we experience when we choose ourselves over community of life with others.  Human life is meant to be shared life, shared existence, and participation inside of a community of life that includes the Trinity itself.

God is love, Scripture tells us, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abide in them.  In this context, love should not be understood primarily as romantic love.  The text doesn’t say that “those who fall in love” abide in God (although that too can be true).  In essence, the text might be reworded to say: “God is shared existence, and those who share life with others, already live inside of God’s life.”

But the reverse is also true.  When we don’t share our live, we end up outside of life.  That, in essence, is hell.

What is hell?  The images the Bible chooses for hell are arbitrary and vary greatly.  The popular mind tends to picture hell as fire, eternal fire, but that is only one image, and not necessarily the dominant one, in Scripture.  Among other things, Scripture speaks of hell as “experiencing God’s wrath”, as “being outside” the wedding and the dance, as “mourning and weeping and grinding our teeth”, as being consigned to the Gehenna (a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem), as being eaten by worms, as fire, as missing out on the banquet, as being outside the kingdom, as living inside a bitter and warped heart, and as missing out on life.  In the end, all these images point to the same thing: hell is the pain and bitterness, the fire, we experience when we culpably put ourselves outside of the community of life.  And it is always self-inflicted.  It is never imposed by God.  God doesn’t deal death and God sends nobody to hell.

When Jesus speaks of God, he never speaks of God as dealing both life and death, but only as dealing life.  Death has its origins elsewhere, as does lying, rationalisation, bitterness, hardness of heart, and hell.  To say that God does not create hell or send anyone there does not downplay the existence of evil and sin or the danger of eternal punishment; it only pinpoints their origins and makes clear who it is who makes the judgment and who it is who does the sentencing.  God does neither; he neither creates hell nor sends anyone to it.  We do both.

As Jesus tells us in John’s Gospel: “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the judgment, the light has come into the world, and the people loved darkness rather than light…  I judge no one”

He doesn’t need to.

Learning from a Child


“Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Mark 10:15

I have a friend Filipino couple who is living here in Malawi for more than 5 years.  They are members of CFC FFL and they have a son and a daughter, 3 and 10 years old respectively.  Their son’s name is Jaidon.  He is a cute, adorable and enegergetic little guy who loves to watch ‘Jolibee’ and play his collection of toy cars.  He is shy towards new acquaitances, but otherwise, he is so playful.

He just turned 3 years old last September (I failed to attend his birthday celebration because I was on my way to Nigeria) but I, a 27 year old guy, have already learned many things from this little kid.

There was a situation where I was with them and we are about to have our lunch.   We had forgotten to pray before the meal because everyone was so hungry.  I was already holding my plate and about to get some food when Jaidon suddenly said something very important. “Pray muna!” (Pray first!).  Then everyone started to look at each other with a smile. “Oo nga naman, tama siya!” (He is right!).  How many times have I forgotten to pray first?  I was reminded to pray first, to give thanks and praises to God, before doing “anything”, not just before eating.

His father is working in an office that is only 15 minutes away from their home while his mother stays at home to take care of him and his older sister.  And whenever his father goes back home, Jaidon stops from whatever he is doing and runs towards his father with so much excitement.   I have been noticing this from Jaidon since I first met him and he is consistent on doing it. I realized that I should have an attitude like that towards God, who is also my Father.  In my prayers and worship, should stop from what ever I am doing and run towards Him with excitement because that is my chance to be with His presence again after being my busy day of work.  The best part is, God is always available to talk to me.

There was an incident when Jaidon’s father gave him a pack of M&M’s chocolates.  He accepted and I saw great gladness on his face as he opens it.  Then, he started to eat the chocolates piece by piece, enjoying every taste and bite.  I then asked him for some chocolates, and without hesitation, he gave me not just one piece, not just two, but he gave me the whole pack.  And of course, I just took one piece.  I pray that may I also accept the Kingdom of God with great delight and glandness as the Lord offers it to me.  May I enjoy every blessing of it, and as I do, may I also be generous enough to give the whole “pack” to many people I meet.

Jaidon loves to play, especially with his older sister.  And there were times that I have witnessed their childish and petty quarrels.  And whenever it happens, either their mother or father will mediate and stop them by saying that it is bad to fight.  And there were times that it was Jaidon’s fault, so he will be asked to ask for forgiveness from his big sister.  With out any hesitation or question, out of total obedience, he will immediately approach his big sister to make peace.  And if it is his big sister who asks for forgiveness, he immediately grants to her.  And after the quarrel and make peace, they will happily play again.

There are two other things that I really admire about Jaidon.  First is his obedience to follow his parents. I hope that I can also have that level of obedience to God, to follow his will and commandment without hesitation, personal reservation or question.  Just follow Him out of total obedience. Second is his attitude.  It is somehow easy for him to grant forgiveness to those who have hurt them, and ask for forgivess from those whom they have hurt.

The mind and heart of a child, like Jaidon, are pure.  They are purer than the people older than them.  The Kingdom of God is a gift for these least and powerless children.  And not until I accept this Gift from God with pure heart and mind like a child, I will never be able to enter in.

There is no one who is too old enough not to learn from the pure heart of a child.

Jaidon Pua

So Blessed To Be With Them


“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.  I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing.  I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” 

John 15: 13-15

One month has passed since the recent celebration of the World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain, where I experienced so many great things from the Lord that have changed my being.  I had an interaction with the generous and loving people of Sierra de Fuentes in the Diocese of Caceres.  I met our Dear Lady of Fatima at her shrine in Portugal.  I saw in person the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, twice at Puerta de Alcala and Cuatro Vientos.  I saw the beauty of God’s creation in the dioceses of Caceres and Madrid.  I tasted authentic food of Spain – Bocadillos, Paella, Jamon, Chorizo and Gazpacho.

And another thing that I was blessed with, more than being able to reach the continent of Europe, was the chance I had to meet new friends and to be re-united with my old friends from Europe and Philippines.  This alone is in fact has inspired me so much.

My birthday last August 9, my Days in the Diocese, my visit to Our Lady of Fatima, Portugal and my World Youth Day all turned into something more special and memorable.  It was because I celebrated them with my good friends.

I thank God for I have met new friends from inside and outside our delegation of CFCFFL.    I was able to meet new friends from Sierra de Fuentes, ECY Philippines, CFC YFL Europe and Canada and from other organizations and other countries.  It is really great how the Lord broadens my circle of friends.  Despite the differences in culture and language with some of them, I generally had wonderful times with all of them.

During my World Youth Day preparation, another thing that I was also praying for was to be with my friends again.  I was really excited back then to see them again from Philippines and Europe.  And the Lord has blessed me so much to be with them; to catch up with one another’s status in life, and to rekindle and strengthen friendships.

Whether during our long and tiring walks under the scorching heat of the sun, eating Bocadillos and drinking cold Gazpacho, praying, free style rapping, sharing jokes and laughter, swimming, shopping for souvenirs, taking photos, getting stranded in the middle of Madrid, eating chinese food, enjoying paella and cold Starbucks coffee (you know who you are), singing and dancing together, sleeping inside the bus, exchanging stuffs with other pilgrims, watching football games, learning the Catholic faith, worshiping the Lord, or even when I got lost in the airport (thank you for those who were with me that time) or when I got separated twice from the group (haha), simply being with them was such a great blessing.

I am so blessed to have great companions who point me towards Christ.  They are part of my family who are always there to guide and help me in times of trouble, to laugh with me in times of my happiness, and who desire only good things for me.  Thank you Lord for giving me wonderful friends and my prayers are for them.

I was blessed to be a pilgrim of WYD.  Moreover, I was more blessed to be a pilgrim of WYD together with my friends.  And most importantly, I was in Madrid together with my best friend – our Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer to End Abortion


(May be prayed once a week)

Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life,

And for the lives of my brothers and sisters.

I know that there is nothing that destroys life more than abortion,

Yet, I rejoice that you have conquered death,

By the Resurrection of Your Son.

I am ready to do my part in ending abortion.

Today, I commit myself never to be silent,

Never to be passive, never to be forgetful of the unborn.

I commit myself to be active in the pro-life movement,

And never to stop defending life

Untill all my brothers and sisters are protected,

And our nation once again becomes

A nation with liberty and justice,

Through Christ, Our Lord.

Amen.

God Sends Good Samaritans (My Nigeria Mission Trip)


August 26, Friday

I finally arrived at home from Madrid Spain after a series of pit stops (Madrid – Amsterdam – Nairobi – Lilongwe – Blantyre – Chiwembe).  I needed to immediately wash my 2 weeks supply of laundry for I was about to leave again for Abuja in the next 3 days.  My host told me that it would be a problem since the water supply had not yet returned for the past days and sun had not yet showed up for almost a week.  I have prayed to God for the supply of water and for the sun to shine.

 

August 27, Saturday

On the next day, the water was consistently running from the faucet and the sun had showed up and was so hot.  Praise God!  But, the washing machine was not working, but with some tweak, it was fixed.  Thank you Lord and you allowed me to wash and dry all of my clothes.

 

August 28, Sunday

I had to return to my friend the 80 liter back pack which I borrowed from her for my WYD trip for she is going to use it.  And I had a problem, I neither have a big back pack that I can use for the Nigeria Mission Trip nor knew anyone else from whom I can borrow.  Then suddenly, my mission partner, Iyam, voluntarily lent me her 80 liter back pack.

 

August 29, Monday

I just left home and on my way to AXA bus terminal that would take me to Lilongwe where the airport is located when suddenly, my host, uncle George saw me while driving and offered me a ride going to the bus terminal.  I was able to save time, money, and energy.

I arrived at 9 PM in the city of Lilongwe.  I was looking for a taxi going to my friend’s house to spend the night, I found none.  Suddenly a “Good Samaritan” offered me a ride; we were together in the same bus.  I was hesitant at first for he was a stranger.  But I ended up accepting his offer for he seemed nice and good.  This was the first time in my entire life that I did this.  Together with his personal driver, they dropped me to my friend’s house.  By the way, his name was Mr. Mwaiwao and he is a Malawian businessman.  No wonder he was using a luxury car that night.

I spent the night in my friend’s house who generously accommodated me until I left the following day.

 

August 30, Tuesday

It was the day of my departure and my 1:15 PM flight to Nairobi, Kenya was canceled.  Oh snap!  And Kenya Airways (KA) accommodated the passengers, including me, in a 2-star hotel (not bad).  They offered me a deluxe room and a late but sumptuous lunch.  The room was so nice and I really enjoyed the hotel food.  I took the time to relax, watch movie, blog and surf the Internet while waiting for my rebooked flight the next day at 10 AM.  God just pampered me.

During the night when I was on my way to the hotel’s restaurant to take my free dinner, one of the KA’s passengers whose flight was also canceled approached me, lent me his cellphone and told me if I wanted to talk to a KA personnel who was on the other line.  I was surprised because I did not know the guy and I did not ask him to call KA for me.  But because it was there already, I accepted his generosity and had talked with the personnel.  I found out from the personnel that I can choose to leave earlier for Nairobi in two hours.  I took that chance and immediately left the hotel and took Kenya Airways’ coaster going to the airport.  I was so thankful to that man (whoever he was) who voluntarily lent me his phone to talk with a KA personnel, thus enabled me to leave Malawi 12 hours earlier.

 

August 31, Wednesday

I arrived at 12 AM in Nairobi and found out that my next flight to Lagos, Nigeria would be at 7 AM.  I decided to stay at the terminal.

I arrived at around 10 AM in Lagos and since my case was “Visa upon arrival”, I was held in the immigration office to process my Nigerian Visa.  While waiting, I asked a lady janitor for the location of a pay phone and explained that I needed to make a call.  I needed to call Ambassador Nestor of CFCFFL Nigeria, who was waiting for my arrival in Abuja (2 hours domestic air flight from Lagos).  Instead of showing me the direction of the pay phone, the lady janitor lent me her mobile phone and allowed me to make a call.  I found out later that the pay phone was just several meters away from the office.

I was taken good care of all the immigration officers present, they where so nice to me especially Superintendent Officer Adeniji who even called me “my friend”.  Their warm accommodation helped me to ease my tiredness and sleepiness; I did not mind that I waited for sometime in their office.  Then, Supt. Adeniji gave me a signed paper and told me that they will get a hold of my passport for Visa processing and they will send it to the Immigration office in Abuja where I can collect it.

I already missed my 6 AM domestic flight going to Abuja via Air Nigeria (NA) due to the canceled flight of Kenya Airways.  But when I went to Air Nigeria’s office to take care of my missed flight, the manager told me with a smile on her face not to worry because it was also canceled and they take care of everything.  The manager assigned Eni, a staff, who helped me process the re-booking of my ticket and even accompanied me to the domestic airport.

While waiting for my 5 PM domestic flight at Lagos domestic airport, I bought a local SIM card.  The SIM card seller then told me to register it online and wait for hours before I can use it.  I bought it to call Uncle Nestor and to tell him about my status but because of their registration protocol, I was not able to use it still.  I also had no internet access.  So, I humbly and bravely asked the seller if she could lend me her mobile phone to send a text.  Amazingly, she did.  I was able to communicate with Uncle Nestor.  The seller even allowed me to send some more texts.  Because of her, I was able to communicate with CFCFFL Abuja.

I had a wonderful trip despite the delays, tiredness and concerns I faced during the whole trip.  I safely arrive in Abuja and the Filipino Community welcomed me with opened arms.

I thank these “good Samaritans”, LORD, please bless them.  They became instruments for my safe and successful trip and arrival to Abuja.   In their simple good deeds, they became YOUR instruments to bless not just me but many people.  We can only imagine how many live could be blessed in doing simple good things to our neighbor.  Thank YOU very much for being my good Samaritan, thank YOU also for sending these angels who helped and guided me throughout my whole trip.  Teach us LORD to be “good Samaritans” to our neighbors.

Thank YOU LORD!


I praise and thank you, oh GOD, for bringing me to Madrid and allowing me to experience the recent World Youth Day.  By YOUR grace, I have seen, heard and experienced YOUR beauty, glory and majesty in Spain.  YOU know very well how much thankful I am because of YOUR kindness and goodness.  My heart is bursting, and a fire is like burning inside me.  I did not deserve to be in Madrid, but it was purely because of YOUR grace that I was included.  Out of my happiness, I wanted to hug and kiss YOU, my Father.  Because of YOUR love for me, I have experienced great things.  Thank YOU, LORD, for bringing me in this life changing journey.

LORD GOD, YOU made my experience of my first World Youth Day perfectly awesome, extraordinarily wonderful, and amazingly remarkable.  But YOU know very well that I only copied these adjectives from the dictionary, for I cannot describe the experience of YOUR greatness.  No words can explain YOUR glory.  The splendor of YOUR presence has never missed to make me speechless.

It was part of YOUR great plan, my LORD, for my goodness and holiness, for me to be in YOUR loving presence in the WYD.  YOU have brought me there where I have witnessed YOUR mighty deeds in my life and in the lives of my friends and of the millions of pilgrims.  YOU have engraved YOUR Words of hope, faith and love in my heart, which had led me to the deepening of my love for YOU and my conviction as your child and missionary.  YOU have also put a big awe in my heart by showing YOUR power and majesty, which had given me more desire to praise and honor YOU.

How happy I am that YOU have granted my simple childish dream to be a pilgrim of the World Youth Day.  How privilege I am that YOU are a Father to me, who only desires the goodness of YOUR children.  YOU have made sure that I receive more than enough.  YOU have lavishly blessed my heart.  YOU have allowed me to know YOU more and to learn YOUR ways more.

YOU are indeed a GOD of many surprises, my LORD.  It was also part of YOUR plan that I celebrated my 27th birthday last August 9, in Paris, France and Madrid, Spain.  I have celebrated it in two countries in one day.  Awesome!  This is one of the best birthday gifts I have received from YOU.  But YOU did not end it there; YOU have just surprised me again by granting a wish that I have desired – to be with my friends from the Philippines, after not seeing them for 11 months.  YOU never fail to give me something special in my birthdays.  And YOU are the most special gift that I have received, more than anything.

Oh LORD, YOU do not stop from loving me.  As YOUR love embraces me, it transcends any experience, material things, and wealth here on Earth.  YOUR grace surpasses anything and YOUR mercy is overflowing.  Nothing is better than to be with YOU.

YOU have brought me to the awesome place of Sierra de Fuentes, in the diocese of Coria, Caceres.  YOU have shown me the beauty and goodness of YOUR creations.  They all reflect YOUR unmatched beauty and goodness.  YOU have given me new friends from my sub-group and from Sierra de Fuentes.  YOU have helped me to build new friendship and deepen the old ones. YOU have allowed me to appreciate and enjoy their presence.  I have enjoyed the great food of Spain (especially their cold summer drink “gazpacho”).  YOU have allowed me to gaze at the panoramas and climb hills and big rocks.  I have felt YOUR care and generosity.  Being with the Spanish has greatly influenced my life and faith.  YOUR warm and joyful presence was among us.  I saw YOU smiling during our tours, swimming breaks and every time we were in the dining room, enjoying YOUR abundant food and having joyful conversation.  There was a language gap.  Very few of them know English and I only know 5 Spanish words.  But YOU filled the gap with YOUR love.  It was by YOUR grace that enabled me to laugh with them, sing with them, and dance with them.  YOU also reminded me that the best language is the language of love.

YOUR love has also brought me to the shrine of the Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.  YOU have brought me there to be more attracted to Our Dear Mother.  Never did I imagine that I would be able to visit her shrine, this soon.  It was very much unexpected and I was really surprised.  YOU have wanted me to have a deeper devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.  I have felt her loving presence and I believe that she was talking to me during the Holy Eucharist.  “Come to me, my dear one”.  I have heard these words several times.  She has taught me how to have a deeper devotion to her.  It was YOU, my LORD, who led me to the beautiful sanctuary of Our Lady.  I have seen the tombs of those who were devoted to her, the now-beatified siblings Francisco and Jacinta Marto and their cousin Sister Lucy.  YOU also led me to the underground chapels so that I can be with YOU alone in the Adoration Chapel.  I was truly inspired by the things I saw.  The inspiration has made me desire to learn more about the messages of Our Lady of Fatima, and hoping that by YOUR grace, I may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, for YOUR own goodness and glory.

When I was not yet in Madrid for the World Youth Day proper, I have already received more than enough grace from YOU, my GOD.  But YOU said to me, “This was just the appetizer; the main course is up ahead.  Enjoy it!”  YOU wanted me to lose more myself within YOUR promise.

By the power of YOUR Holy Spirit, YOU allowed me to be with my friends and a million of other pilgrims.  I was with them in prayers, celebration and giving YOU honor and praises.  YOU have gathered us as one big Catholic family to be in YOUR presence.  YOU have allowed us to listen and learn from YOUR enriching Words during the Catechism sessions and celebrations of the Holy Eucharist.  YOU have given us opportunities to cleanse our souls through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Thank you my LORD, I have got the chance to visit several old but beautiful churches in Caceres and Madrid.   They were truly amazing and breathtaking; the beautiful architectural designs were flawless.  But nothing is more amazing and breathtaking than YOU alone.  Nothing compares to YOUR flawless beauty.  What I really liked was the chance to be able to talk and adore YOU in these churches despite the busy schedules and many plans.  I felt YOUR warm presence and I heard YOUR Words repeatedly whispering in my heart.  “YOU are unworthy, but YOU are counted”; “Do not be afraid”; “I know very well the plans I have for YOU and it is for your goodness”; “I will let YOU see my greatness in Spain”; “Behold, I will teach YOU My ways, I will mold YOU in the kind of person I wanted YOU to be”; “I am with you, always”.  YOU have given me more affirmation and assurance; YOU are my only affirmation and assurance, oh LORD.

YOU blessed me so much during the Days in the Diocese (DID) in Caceres, and YOU blessed me even more in Madrid.  I have met inspiring Catholics who possess great knowledge and wisdom from YOU.  Through them, YOU have encouraged me to embrace more the teaching of YOUR Church.  YOU have motivated and inspired me to continue to strive more to live a chaste and holy life.

I have anticipated that I will experience great things during the event but these were more than I have imagined.  I have received countless of blessings, grace that cannot be measured, and love that goes beyond anything and surpasses everything.

I have only asked from YOU, my God, to be a pilgrim of the World Youth Day, but YOU have given me more than what I have asked for.  YOU have given me this rare opportunity to see the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI in person.   The first time was during the opening ceremony in Plaza de la Independencia, but I have seen only his back.  I was disappointed, but YOU allowed me to realize that it was also part of YOUR plan to be like that and YOU were just teaching me to desire more to see him.  It was a purification of my intention.  I have prayed to YOU that I would be given another chance to see the Holy Father face to face.  YOU granted my prayer during the last day of WYD at Cuatro Vientos.  The desire was strong that I decided to go to the stage from back most part of the airfield where we were staying.  I crossed thousands of pilgrims, met different nationalities and finally reached the stage as close as possible.  I have seen the Holy Father face to face at 30 meters away.  That was the closest one that I can.  It may not be as close as I wanted it, but still, I was very much inspired by his presence.  I have felt his aura that had given me some kind of inner peace and happiness.  Thank you LORD for I have beheld YOUR presence in the person of the Our Holy Father.

The scenes at the Cuatro Vientos were breathtaking, extraordinary and jaw dropping.  I felt like I wanted to stay because it was a mountain top experience.  The 42 degrees burning heat of the sun was nothing, the long walk and dusts did not separate me from experiencing YOUR tremendous and overflowing love.  Everything was worth it.  I would be willing to sweat again, get darker under the sun, inhale the dusts through my nostrils, make sacrifices and undergo sufferings just to behold YOUR presence and experience YOUR love, grace and mercy, again and again.  It was a mountain top experience!

But YOU have asked me not to stay, but to go down the “mountain” and tell these stories to as many people as I can, to as many places as I can reach.   YOU have instructed me not to keep for myself all the things that I saw, heard and experienced during my journey in the World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid.  Thank you, Lord, for everything that YOU have done for me.  My journey still continues and it is not towards Madrid anymore, but towards holiness, towards YOU.

Thank you, my LORD!

By YOUR divine grace, with the teachings of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, with the guidance of YOUR HOLY SPIRIT and by the intercession of Our Dear Mother Mary, may I be able to treasure these blessings and share it to many.  This, I pray.  Amen.

The Journey Continues Towards WYD11MADRID


July 29 – Friday. 10 days before intended departure.

My Schengen Visa was supposedly available so I have taken the 5 hours travel to the German embassy to collect it.  I was really excited for finally I can get a hold of it.  But things happened the other way around.  At the embassy, I have talked with the lady who entertained me during my application and she said that it was not yet available because they are still waiting for a reply from a specific someone.  I was disappointed.  I explained to her that they were the one who gave me the appointment date to collect and that I am running out of time and I need to leave on August 8.  She said that we can’t do anything but to wait, she also told me to call on Monday for the availability of the Visa.

Appointment lurked inside me.  My spirit was challenged and tested.  I thought that everything will be okay.  But I believe that this was the Lord’s way to purify my intentions.  The situation was really disappointing knowing that the travel was physically draining and I don’t have the luxury of time and money to waste.  But I just smiled at her who told me the sad news.  I was helpless that moment, my excitement suddenly flew away.  I could not do anything but to trust God more.  Continue to walk on water by faith knowing that Jesus is also walking beside me.  The situation seemed unfair but the serenity of the Lord prevailed in me.  He calmed my spirit and reminded me that He was the very reason in the first place why I am applying for Visa and not me.  I will acquire it but by His plan, not mine.

I went back to Blantyre still with high hope and spirit even though my Visa was not yet with me.

July 30 and 31 – Saturday and Sunday. 7 days before intended departure.

Instead of entertaining the disappointment that was knocking in my heart, I tried to reflect on the recent happenings.  God has made me remember the things He has done for me these past months.  These events have happened because God loves me, period!  I was reminded during the weekend on the everlasting and consistent goodness of the Lord.  I was also reminded that doubting should never be an option, fear should never be entertained.   If He has done great thing in my past, He can do it again and again for countless of times.  The Gospels and the readings those days reminded me that strong waves will come along the voyage but the boat will never sink if my faith remains steadfast and true.

August 1 – Monday. 6 days before intended departure.

The first day of August, another opportunity to behold the goodness and greatness of the Lord.

Early in this day, my mission partner called again the embassy and asked for the availability of our Visas and the person on the other line told her to call again on Friday.  On Friday?  These were my thoughts that moment.  First, Friday is 3 days before we leave for Madrid, therefore if we call on Friday to know the release then we can probably get it on Monday the following week because the embassy is closed on weekends, I still need to travel going there and it only opens at 8 to 11 in the morning.  Furthermore, I still need to purchase my plane ticket online.

But the Lord told me not to worry about anything and to think about Him instead.  His message was so clear and that to think only about Him, nothing more and nothing less.

And a miracle has come.  After two hours, the lady whom Iyam has spoken with on the phone called her and said that our Visas can be picked up on Saturday.  Yahoo!  The happiness and the excitement inside my heart have risen up.  “Thank you Lord!”

I suddenly planned my next moves.  I will collect the passport on Saturday then make an online purchase of the plane ticket on the same day.  Get the ticket confirmation and print the E-ticket on Sunday and then travel to Lilongwe and stay there overnight.  On Monday, the following day, go to Lilongwe Airport and enjoy the trip to Madrid.

My plan seems quite good at the given situation, but the Lord wants His plan to prevail and not mine. His plans are far greater and far majestic than mine.  His is a masterpiece.  On the same day, a friend of ours, from whom I have asked help and whose mother was the former German Ambassador in Malawi, called me and said that her mom is willing to help us to follow our Visa applications.  She said that she will call me again for updates.

August 2, Tuesday.  5 days before intended departure.

I was waked up early in the morning by a call.  It was my friend and she told me that her mother had phoned the embassy.  She then told me that our Visas are ready and can be collected any time.  Wow, that is indeed something better than my plan.  I was really surprised about the news. I can get a hold of my Visa days earlier than what was planned.  It means that I can have more time to prepare than what I planned.

God is really great!  He has planned to give me more time to prepare.  More time to prepare means more time to praise Him and glorify Him for all of His goodness.

August 4, Thursday.  4 days before intended departure.

I rushed to Lilongwe to collect our Visa and finally, it was a success. I was speechless when I saw the Schengen Visa on my passport.  It amazed me as I read my name on it.  This is it, the fulfillment of God’s promise the fruit of all the sacrifice and suffering – salavation by the grace of the Lord.  My heart was rejoicing, my soul was praising.  I felt like I was on the top of the world and already in Madrid for the World Youth Day.

But the Lord was not yet finished with His plan.  His grace and goodness were really overflowing in my life.  On the night of the same day, while I was enjoying the newest gift that the Lord has given me, I checked my Facebook account and two of my good friends suddenly buzzed me on the chat.  They said that they just found a way to purchase my plane ticket online.  On that very moment they paid my ticket.  Praise God!  This is really happening, I am sure to attend the World Youth Day!  I told my two friends on chat that I was really grateful for their help.

I am more grateful to God who lavishly gives His grace and goodness.  No words can define how thankful I am for all of the things that He has done during my WYD preparation.  I thank Him for every struggles, pains and hardships that I have encountered and for by His grace I have found great joy in them.  He has made this journey very memorable by sending families, relatives and friends who have helped me a lot.  Furthermore, by providing all the resources needed for me to experience His greatness through the World Youth Day.

I have believed even before that my experience this coming WYD will truly be life changing.  I realized that I am partly correct and partly wrong.  WYD will truly be life changing, but my life has started to change even better months before.  For this journey towards Madrid has brought me into a state of grace that I have not yet experienced before.

I am going to celebrate my 27th birthday on August 9, while aboard the plane going to Madrid.  And I will land on the same day.  This experience is the best gift that I have received so far.  I can say that this is already the prime of my life.

August 8, Monday. Day of departure.

My things are all prepared, all are set.  I am physically and spiritually ready to go to Madrid and have a Jesus Christ experience.  Few hours from now, I will be bound to Madrid.  Great things will surely happen because I have a great and awesome God.  And whatever I will experience there will be added up to the overflowing cup of grace of God in me.

I really can’t believe that I am going to attend the World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid!

The Mist


Have you seen the 2007 movie “The Mist”, starring Thomas Jane (The Punisher 1)?  The Story is about a freak storm that unleashed species of blood-thirsty creatures in a small town.  Well, parts of Malawi are currently experiencing mists but this is totally different from what is seen in the movie.

The period from July to September is the season of winter here in Malawi.  At first, it is really hard for me to imagine that such country in Africa, a hot continent as I have known it, has a winter season.  And I am hear right now, experiencing first-hand this wonderful experience from God.

I woke up early this morning and the weather was so cold that I did not want to remove the three thick blankets that were wrapping my body.  But because I needed to do things, I still went up, shivering.  I went to the toilet to take a bath and the water that runs out of the faucet were like cold drinking water from the refrigerator, but thank God that we have hot water available in the house.  After the hot bath, it is still very cold but thank God I have thick clothes that make me warm and there is a fireplace inside the house.

The sun has not showed up yet and mists are everywhere since yesterday.  This morning, the mist is thicker than yesterday making it harder to see clearly from a distance of about 40 meters.  I could see it like smoke or the white energy that comes out of boiling water.  I went outside the house to observe.  I felt the suspended water in the air over my face, and I can see clearly the moist of my breath.  Wow!  The air I breathe is very different, it is refreshing and cool, and my lungs are like being cleansed.  I still like it though it is so cold because somehow this is a rare experience for me.

What I don’t like is when my body starts to shiver because of the cold weather.  I always have hard times enduring it because my body easily gets cold.  I even joke around sometimes that I am like a metal that easily absorbs cold. And the people here that I have shaken hands with were all surprised by my very cold hands.

I honestly do not like staying long in cold places because it makes my body shivers and hard to move. On the contrary, I honestly thank God for this very rare opportunity and I have chosen to enjoy it to the fullest.   I also believe that it is also God’s plan to let me acknowledge His might through His creations.

How To Pray The Divine Mercy Chaplet


Jesus, I trust in You!

The Chaplet of The Divine Mercy

1.  Begin with the Sign of the Cross, 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary and The Apostles Creed.

2.  Then on the Our Father Beads say the following:
Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

3.  On the 10 Hail Mary Beads say the following:

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

(Repeat step 2 and 3 for all five decades).

4.  Conclude with (three times):

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

http://thedivinemercy.org/

Drive-Thru Bank


 

I have been inspired by my friend blogger, Xavy Padilla who posted his Starbucks drive thru experience few days ago. Here is the link http://xavyniceday.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/starbucks-drive-thru/.   This is the reason why I want to share this drive-thru bank.

I got curious when I first saw the Standard Bank drive-thru branch along the Kamuzu Highway.  I  mistook it as a parking area but I was surprised when an SUV suddenly drove through, slid an envelop in a box and drove away.  It was my first time to see one.  This is the only bank in Blantyre with this kind of service (I am not sure if there is others in other towns of Malawi).  I have heard that there is also one in BF Sucat Road in the Philippines.

Drive-Thru services of food chains, car wash, gasoline and now in banks, have been so popular since people want comfort and fast access on things.  If you suddenly got hungry and wanted to eat while driving, stop by a drive-thru restaurant.  It will basically satisfy your food craving while on the road.  This kind of service saves consumers, especially those who always use cars and on the go, time and hassle to look for parking space and also money to pay for it. Imagine the comfort that you get, you do not have to go down the car, just use the drive-thru, order and pay.  Just be careful when you drive while enjoying your hot coffee.

At the same time, it also saves companies and businesses money in need to build more parking spaces.  Companies now a days even use their drive-thru service to attract more costumers by marketing promotions like “Don’t forget to bring home for your family, don’t forget to drive thru”, something between those lines.  They even use it to promote their products and make some world records as what Mc Donald’s has been doing.

There are tons of benefits that drive-thru gives to people and  most of them are good.  I just hope that it doesn’t instill laziness in us : )

 

Hopes and Dreams


Have you had an experience where you accidentally found an old forgotten writing?  You were the one who wrote it and it is about you and your dreams.   You have read it again after several years and you realized that some of the things you wrote are presently happening in your life.  I just had mine.

While I was browsing my folders in my computer, I accidentally  found this old poem that I had composed in 2007.  This is about me, my hopes and my God.  Four years have passed and I realized that some of them I either have experienced or presently experiencing .  This is really very affirming especially to be reminded that God knows all of my hopes and dreams and He grants it in ways that are sweet and least expected.

I present this without alteration from the original text.  It was written in my native language, “Filipino” or most commonly known as “Tagalog”.   So just bear with it and enjoy.

 

VL Ang Aking Palayaw (VL Is My Nickname)

 

VL ang aking palayaw, Ramos ang apelyido

Ipinanganak noong ika -siyam ng Agosto

Gabi ng Mil nuwebe siyentos nubentay quatro

Sa lungsod Quezon ako’y iniluway ng inay ko

 

Sa apat na magkakapatid ako’y isang bunso

Kaya ang atensyon nila ay parang paraiso

Sa akin lahat nakatuon, salaysay ni diko

Pinagmamasdan nilang lahat pati pagtulog ko

 

Dahil sa pangarap ng mahal kong mga magulang

Ako ay pinag-aral sa pribadong paaralan

Isang maginhawang buhay, sa akin ay inilaan

Pinagtiyagaang ibigay, magandang kapalaran

 

Sa buhay ko’y marami akong gustong maranasan

Lumibot sa Pinas, kasintahan pati kainan

Kasama diyan ang masubukan ko kahit minsan

Masubukan iba’t ibang uri ng palakasan

 

Pero talagang may mas magandang plano ang Diyos

Iba’t ibang klaseng delubyo sa buhay bumuhos

Maraming nangyari pero ang galak ko ay lubos

Pinadama Niya lang sa amin kung sino ang boss

 

Sa Kolehiyo siya ay aking mas nakilala

Dahil sa pagmamahal, ibang tao’y ginamit n’ya

Upang relasyon ko sa kanya na tila nawala

Ay manumbalik sa dati niyang saya at sigla

 

Ako’y nakapagtapos sa colegio de San Beda

Mahigit dalawang taon ang lumipas na

Sa kursong aking binuhusan ng pawis, tiyaga

Commerce major in computer, kakaiba, sabi nila

 

Sa aking pagtatapos, nagdesisyon na ibigay

Sarili’t kinabukasan sa kanya inialay

Kaya po sa inyo ngayon aking sinasalaysay

Magiging misyonero para sa Diyos ng buhay

 

 

Kung ako ang tatanungin

Kung ano ang mangyayari

Makalipas ang limang taon

Sa buhay ko mula ngayon

Simple lang ang aking nais

Sa kinabukasang minimithi

 

Buhay ay masaya

Pagkat mga pamilya ko’y kasama

Sa mga bagay na ikakasaya

Nang bawat isa

 

Sa diyosises ng Kaloocan

Diyos ay makikilala

Sapagkat gagamitin niya

Akong para sa kanya

 

Mas maraming kaibigan

Aking masasamahan

Kami ang nagdadamayan

At hindi basta basta iiwan

 

Negoyong kumikita

Na hindi lang iisa

Sapagkat ngayon ay nagsisimula

Sa aking mga binebenta

 

May isang dalaga

Na aking ipagdadasal

Siya’y susuyuin

Siya’y aking mamahalin

 

Aking pananampalataya

Sa Diyos na lumikha

Ay mas lalalim pa

Pagkat ako’y minamahal Niya

 

Mas makikilala Siya

At mas mamahalin

Siya na mismo

Ang lumalapit sa akin

 

Panalangin ko

Maging mas mabuting tao

Sa pagmamahal at lakas Niya

Mangyayari lahat ito

The Journey “Still” Continues Towards Madrid


This is a continuation story of my previous blog, “The Journey Continues Towards Madrid” You can visit it at this link, https://vlramos.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/the-journey-continues-towards-madrid/.  Let me continue my story about God’s goodness and greatness.

In high spirit, my mission partner and I arrived at 9 P.M. in Lilongwe, the former capital city of Malawi (Blantyre is now the capital).  We stayed at the house of a Filipino friend.  After we had our late dinner, Iyam and I checked our Visa requirements and we found out that two of her requirements were missing and what she had with her were my extra copies.  That was a big problem but I have a bigger God.  Thank God for I have decided to bring my laptop and the soft copy of the documents with me.  Thank God again for the owner of house has a new laser printer which he willingly lent us.  Thank God for the third time because I was reminded that He will never runs out of grace for me and I will never run out of reason to thank Him.  Each moment, every situation is an opportunity to thank Him.  Finally, after several verification, everything was set and we are ready to go.

On the following day, though I am dependent on my cellphone’s alarm clock, I woke up very early in the morning ever before it had turned off.  Then, after I had my morning prayer, my cellphone’s alarm suddenly turned off and it played the music “A Brand New Day” by the Christian Band “Avalon”.  As the music says, it was literally a brand new day.  It was also a brand new day for brand new opportunities to experience the love of God.  It was a brand new day to be in a state of grace again.  The music has made the day more interesting, it has made my heart on fire.  I was really excited to go to the embassy and apply for Schengen Visa.  Wearing my corporate business attire, we went to the embassy.

Accompanied by a friend, we looked for the German Embassy which takes care of Schengen Visa application (there is no Spanish Embassy here).  And after a very long walk and several wrong turns, we finally reached our destination.

We queued and on my turn, my application was denied!  The receptionist demanded a letter from the organizer itself of WYD in Madrid, stating that I am a legitimate pilgrim of the event.  Since I don’t have that, I have no choice but to get that letter and apply again.  I was hoping that we will be able to have our application without any problem, but the Lord has let it.  And the only thing I can do is to trust Him who is in control.  God wants me to trust Him more and for that to happen, He always put me into situations where there is nothing that I can do but to believe in Him.

We are in Malawi and the only link we have with WYD is our friends in the Philippines who are taking care of our registration on our behalf.  As we walked going outside the embassy, I was thinking on how we can acquire that letter from Spain as soon as possible.  We do not have the luxury of both time and money to go back to Lilongwe.  I hurriedly called our friends who are the Philippines and have asked them for assistance.  They said that they will do their best to help and if possible to acquire the letter.  God has brought good people in my life who are willing to go extra mile to help you in times of difficulties.  I am really blessed to have them as my friends.

After couple of hours, I have received emails from them.  They told me that it is very hard to acquire that letter in a short period of time.  So they just sent me another document that they believed would help us and asked me to try sending email to the WYD secretariat.  I still printed it hoping that it will help.  We went back to the embassy the following morning to submit our applications again with the additional document and this time, the unexpected thing happened.

The additional document was a print-screen of a file from the official WYD website stating that a certain subgroup, where we are registered, is an official pilgrim of WYD11Madrid.  Though it was not the letter that the embassy is demanding, it became the reason for our applications to be accepted even without the letter they were demanding.  Praise God again!  The receptionist has accepted our applications and said, “Now this makes sense”.  There are also times that He allows the least expected things to happen in our lives for our hearts to be amazed and for our spirits to praise Him.

Praise God indeed for our applications have been accepted.  Everything happens according to God’s plan.  From the time we left our home until the time we went back home, our trip was truly full of God’s intervention.  I thank Him so much for the great people who have helped us.  I also thank them for their constant prayers and support.

I am now patiently waiting for the day that the results will come out.  Whatever the result will be, whether granted or denied, my heart will continue to expect great things from Him.  This journey constantly reminds me of this, God is a great God and He is a God of greatest things.

This is not yet the end of my journey towards Madrid.  Many are yet to learn and realize.  More are yet to experience and witness.   Much are yet to write down.  And all are about God!

The Journey Continues Towards Madrid


It has been two weeks since I last blogged my journey towards World Youth Day 2011 Madrid.  Fourteen days look short but in these past weeks, so much things have already happened that are truly worthy to write down and give remarks.

I have applied for Schengen Visa exactly one week ago in Lilongwe, Malawi and what has happened there was totally about God and how He generously showers His grace upon us.

It was a cold Wednesday afternoon, together with my mission partner, Iyam, we left our host’s home for a trip.  Packed with my clothes, money and of course, my Visa requirements, we went straight to the bus station via long walks and a public transport.  We were in a hurry and running late that time due to some unwanted delays.  We supposedly have taken the executive coach of National Bus Company (NBC).  But since we were running late, we have concluded that we cannot arrive at the terminal on time and had decided to take a different executive bus coach instead, which is nearer than NBC. Though we were late and in a hurry, I had taken the situation calmly.

We ended up taking the AXA bus coach, which is not as popular as NBC, and had arrived 20 minutes earlier the departure time.  We bought our tickets and had learned that AXA’s executive coach is 25% cheaper than of NBC’s.  That was really something better because we have saved up money.  Furthermore, we have ridden a new executive coach.  The inside was clean and the upholstery were still brand new based on its smell.

My seat number was 28 but the bus stewardess asked me to transfer to 45, which is the last seat.  I really don’t like seating at the back part of a bus; I avoid it if necessary.  When I think about it, we had all the rights to complain, but I did not.  Then I saw two Chinese boys sit on the chairs that were supposedly ours.  I let it passed and had taken the back seat with pleasure and without any complain.  The bus had started to move when all passengers were aboard, I noticed immediately that the two Chinese boys were not comfortable with their seats.  Food trays and the toilet were all in front of them during the whole trip.  That must have been uneasy for them.  I immediately understood why we were at the back.

We had a 5 hour road trip.  Movies were shown and snacks and drinks were served to all passengers.  Even though it was a bumpy ride because I was at the back, I can generally say that the trip was safe and nice.

Everything happens for a reason.  God allows delays and unwanted things to happen because He intends to protect you from something worse to happen.  And sometimes, He actually has something better for you that He wants you to appreciate in the end.

To be continued…

YOU (a poem)


My soul is a true gift

From YOU Lord, YOU have given it

So special, so exquisite

I will treasure and love it

And always take good care of it

Like a pearl with great price on it

You are precious, my soul

That the devil wants to control

He does not want it whole

He tricks it to have some holes

So I may eternally fall

With him in hell, that is his goal

My soul has been tainted

With past mistakes I repented

I humbly pray, Oh Lord

Coz’ in YOUR eyes I’m naked

Heal me, for only YOU can mend

My broken wings I cannot bend

My sins were forgiven

YOUR great compassion was given

YOUR mercy has fallen

Straight to me from Heaven

YOU always showers grace to men

Calling us back to YOU again

Oh God of all mercy

Thank YOU so much for saving me

Loved by The Almighty

For YOU have now set me free

To fly above over the sea

To soar with YOU makes me happy

I now run from his lies

From His traps, I pray for my life

Bless me my God and light

That with YOU my soul can fight

The temptation before my sight

I trust YOU for YOU are my might

My soul’s only yearning

To follow YOU while your walking

Nothing’s more fulfilling

Than To serve YOU, oh my KING

And to praise YOU while I’m singing

To believe in YOU while I’m living

My soul sings YOUR praise, oh God

For YOU’ve given me all I had

All I have is from YOUR hand

YOU’ve created for me, I’m glad

Either small or big, they are all grand

Even the tiny grain of Boracay sand

My soul will shout YOUR fame

I’ll always have faith in YOUR name

By YOUR grace, I’ll proclaim

To different places or plains

Even if it gives me worldly shame

YOUR goodness in my life, that’s my aim!

Yes LORD, Yes LORD, Yes Yes LORD


Every man always faces situations in life where he has to make decisions.  And many of these can be made by a simple answer of YES.  The word YES is a short word but it alone is profound and meaningful.  You can use it in many different human circumstances.  I use it to respond to a person who is calling my attention.  I also use it as an expression of my happiness, excitement and surprise.  And of course, I use the word YES to answer different questions.  I always use my speech to use it, but sometimes I write down the word or shake my head up-down to transmit information that my answer to the question is YES.

Just like in the movie “Yes Man”, starring the Hollywood comedian Jim Carry, my YES too, has brought different things in my life.  It has brought countless blessing; I have been blessed with fortune, happiness, and joy.  But there were also times that it has brought me worldly sufferings, pains, and chaos. So not all decisions made with YES will bring good things, as the movie explains.  It depends on how, when, and where you use it, because it can either break or make one’s life.  But our YES to God absolutely without any doubt brings goodness and greatness in our lives.

God has given us the liberty to use the word at our own disposal.  It is up to each and every one of us to use it wisely to make good decisions that would bring great things in life, or use it to produce otherwise.  And of course, the Lord wants us to do the first because He is the God who desires our welfare and not destruction.  The word YES is like a magical word that the Lord has given us.  It is a gift from Him that He wants us to use properly according to His command, to open countless doors of opportunities and blessings.

It was in July 18-21 2003, eight years ago, when my YES has changed my life for the best.  It was when I finally said YES to my friends’ invitation in YFC San Beda to attend their Youth Camp in Bulacan.  They have been inviting me to the youth ministry for almost a year and since I am so focused with my Taekwondo career and other things that I declined them twice.

My YES to that Youth Camp has brought me to a great family in the ministry where I have met great people whom I am sharing my life with.  Furthermore, it also gave me a chance to meet and to get to know Jesus Christ who renewed my life.  My YES to the invitation is actually a YES to God’s invitation of personal relationship with Him who has brought love and hope, grace and mercy in my life.  The changes in my life were so great that I realized that I have to be a great son and siblings in my family, and a great student in my college.  The Lord has blessed the relationships within my family and He even gave me a chance to graduate with recognitions.  It was greatness after greatness after greatness.

One year after my Youth Camp, the Lord again has asked me another question.  My leaders in the community asked me if I want to serve God through the social ministry.  To be honest, I was about to decline the offer because I had no idea about that ministry.  But somehow, the Lord has prevented me to give an answer that I could not speak that moment.  So I prayed for it, and it was after my discernment that I said YES for the service knowing that it was God who has called me.  Because I said YES to God for that service, God has brought more changes in me.  Since He had all the opportunities, He has brought me to different places and has allowed me to do things that I have never done before.   God has sharpened my leadership skills as I led groups of San Beda students.  God has used me to changed many lives among the students, school personnel and the people we helped through the community development program that the Lord has established in the school.

March 2005, my college graduation month.  God has called me to become a fulltime missionary for Him.  He has called me to give my whole life in service of Him.  It was another fiat for me.  He invited me to ride on His band wagon of Missionaries.  The calling was so big that I don’t know what to answer.  But the He instead has reminded me of all the things He has done in my entire life.  I have realized during my discernment that God’s love is really so great, greater that anything on earth.  So awesome and mighty that it has always left me speechless.  So great that the only answer I could give was only YES.

This has brought me into a deeper state of grace.  In my two years in the community and being a fulltime missionary, the Lord has allowed me to know Him better, thus deepening our relationship.  The bond was getting tighter that the He let me do great things for Him and at the same time He has blessed my life and family.  It has been always Him.  In this chapter of my life, new friendship with my brothers and sister in Christ was born and developed.   I have found my true friends that are willing to sacrifice for me.  And I have been with these friends with to different places, have done so many things with them, and together have faced and overcome many challenges.

My family has been nurtured and blessed as I have laid my life to Him, relationships have been improved, love and hope started to surround us.  My parents started to understand each other and my siblings as well.  The things that I used to hate before about my family was little by little taken cared of by God.  His grace and mercy Is flowing in my family despite of the challenges and problems of life.  As I write this and away from them, I am putting every drop of my trust to God alone, that He is taking care of my family.

God continues to develop me into a better missionary, Catholic and person.  God has put new passions and skill in my heart that had blessed many people and me.  Countless of opportunities to change my life for better and to do something great for Him was given to me.

It was another chapter of new heights and new wonders in my life.  They say that the rest is history but it is just the beginning of great blessings.

It was just last July of 2010, when I had made one of the biggest decisions so far in my entire life.  I said YES to one of the biggest callings in my life, to go on mission to the “Warm Heart Country” of Africa – the Republic of Malawi.  As I remember and reflect on that day when I said YES to God through one of my best friends, everything is still fresh in my memory and it is Him who makes me remember it for He does not want me to forget that day.

Exactly one year had passed since I answered God’s calling and if I am to describe what I feel right now, SPEECHLESS!  I am in awe and I don’t know by myself how to describe the great life I am experiencing.  I have seen wonders of creation, the creations of God:  Different trees, mountains, plains, sky, lake, the climate, creatures that walk, crawls and flies.  These are what the Lord is allowing me to marvel each and everyday I walk outside the house and go to different places.

I addition, I always surprise myself by doing things that I never have done before.  God has given me skills that amaze me.  Playing the guitar and teaching hundreds of people how to sing songs of praise, how did I do it since I am not a music person?  He gave me my driver’s license and thought me how to drive long distance to bring His messages of love to different people and places.   He teaches me language foreign to me and by the power of His Spirit that I am able to speak few native words of the Malawians.  He has blessed my tongue furthermore that I can use English language properly in conversing and blogging my experiences, by which I am honestly not well-versed.

I am already witnessing transformations of lives.  Their souls are being pruned and molded by God’s mighty hands through Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life (CFCFFL) and its “Family Ministries”.  The members are following the path of Christ, some are starting to lead their fellow members. There is one guy who, after bringing 12 of his friends in Youth for Family and life (YFL), has started to introduce Jesus Christ in his school.  The sense of good and the absence of it – evil, is starting to get deeper in their hearts, thus helping them also to use their YES properly and for good.  Praise God for the  He continues to open doors of opportunities to bring more souls back to Him.

People outside the community are also being inspired by the things they are seeing through us.  People I meet at the church, market, city proper or at any place, wonders in the things that the Lord has done through me.  Their curiosity on me has led them to know Christ as they had asked things about me.  People around me always get interest in the kind of work I am doing, that even a kaunjika (2nd hand apparel store) vendor whom I have bought a winter jacket from have asked me about Catholicism when he had learned that I am a Catholic Lay Missionary. He is not a Catholic but I was amazed and surprised by his interest to know my work and my faith.

These are these things that I never have imagined of doing or experiencing, but the Lord, out of his grace and goodness, has opened these doors for me.  I thank him for counting me worthy to experience these surprising and wonderful things.  These show that nothing is impossible with the strength of God; He can do wonderful things in our lives if and only if we allow Him.  As I reflect on them, myself sometimes tells me that it all has started with my big YES, and I disagree with it because everything has started, even my YES to God, with Him who loved me first.  I give the credit to my Creator.

Our life on Earth is like a huge notebook with so many blank pages on it and God is the one writing things on those pages.  As he finishes a page, He then turns on to the next blank page and writes again.  He is writing great stories of Him loving us and the people that we love. When you try to browse the previous pages, you will discover histories, drawings, proofs, narrations and testimonies on how a simple answer of YES to God, with faith in Him, can bring great things to a man’s life, a family and a community.  And if each and every human being decides to give their YES to Jesus Christ, like the bride gives her sweet and sincere YES to the groom, I am certain that by bringing them together and by God’s grace, it can change the World and bring not just great things but the greatest.

I have a big confession to share, all my YES’s to God are actually not made by me, but by His spirit that dwells in me.  I pray that in our every YES, God may be glorified!

An On Going Encounter With God


It has been my dream to attend the celebration of the World Youth Day, since the day I first saw on television the live coverage of WYD 1995 Manila, Philippines.  I was captivated by everything I saw, especially by the presence of Blessed John Paul II, who was still the pontiff during that time.  “Si Santo Papa, si Santo Papa! (It’s the Pope, it’s the Pope!)”  I shouted to my parents while watching with them.  Everything was just amazing.

I remember its pastoral theme, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you”, which was taken from the Gospel of John 20:21.  It was a reminder for all the people especially the Catholics to accept God’s love through His Son Our Lord Jesus Christ, and to proclaim His love by loving one another.  The whole event was anchored on this message.

Who can forget its famous theme song “Tell the World of His Love”, which my older sister even bought its album.  We also had a month-long activity at school (Marist School) as being one in celebration of the World Youth Day.  I cannot forget when the whole class competed on an interpretative dance, yes, I used to dance.  I also got the chance to compete on an artwork contest about the verse taken from John 20:11, I did not win the 1st place but I got consolation prize though.

I may not be in Luneta that time where the celebration happened, but I thank God because I realized that I had my WYD experience at home while watching the celebration on television with my family and at school during our month-long activity where we had presentations, contents and celebrations.  Simple but it is still memorable.

The Lord continues to inspire my heart to attend the WYD and that it was in 2008 when He has given me a chance to attend the WYD 2008 Sydney.  I had the financial capacity to pay but I did not yet have a passport.  I applying for my passport was really a big purification experience for my part.  My patience was really tested due to the hassle of applying for my passport and I was running out of time.  I thought that I am going to make it but the Lord has another plan.   In short, I did not able to attend the event in Australia.

I did not make it but the Lord has still blessed me with a passport.  I have my first ever passport with all its funny and memorable stories (I will tell next time the funny story how I got my passport).  That passport always tells me that God never runs out of consolation prize, which at the end He will let you realize that it was not just a consolation but the grand prize.  He never runs out of grace.

But I have not lost hope for the Lord is the source of my hope, He is my hope.  This is the other plan of the Lord.  I was blessed to experience the 5th Asian Youth Day in 2009 that was hosted by Imus Cavite Philippines.  I met many Bishops, Priest and young Catholics from different countries of Asia.  I learned a lot about faith and Catholicism during the fun-filled and Christ-centered activities during the whole weekend.  I witnessed different cultures of different country delegates.  I also participated in the Days in the Diocese days before, where I met Fr. Vince of Malaysia, and we were hosted by a loving and devout Catholic family in Navotas.

It may not be the WYD, but the fact that I was blessed so much, is enough proof that the Lord only desires goodness for me.  It did not happen outside the country, but the “Jesus Christ experience” was still so great.  I believe that the 5th AYD experience is a foretaste of something much better, something far greater, and something that would bless me more.  It is like God telling me, “it is only the beginning.  Great things are yet to come”.

Great things are yet to come indeed as I have experienced greatness after greatness.  For World Youth Day 2011 Madrid is fast approaching.  I have checked again its official website at http://www.madrid11.com/en, and it says 39 days to go (today is July 7)!

World Youth Day is the biggest international gathering of young Catholics and this year, it will take place in Madrid, Spain on August 11 to 21.  The 26th WYD is a very much awaited event for many young Catholics including me.  From different part of the world, many aspire and pray to be able to attend it.  And as early as last year (2010), thousands or even millions of Catholics from different parishes and dioceses have started preparing.

I and some of my friends have started saving up money, soliciting and raising funds.  With the pastoral theme, “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith”, from the letter of St. Paul to the Colossians (Col 2:7), all wanted to attend and experience our Lord Jesus Christ in the World Youth Day.  We wanted to have a Jesus Christ experience, AGAIN and AGAIN!

I have checked my capacity to attend the event in Madrid, and it looks impossible.  I have the passport right now which the Lord has given to me during the WYD Sydney preparation.  Passport checked!  But this time, I am not financially capable to pay for fees and to buy the increasing price of the airfare ticket.  Money, I am empty.  Plus, being part of Philippine delegation while I am currently in Malawi gives me hard time to coordinate with Manila and get the requirements I needed.  Coordination is very challenging.

Furthermore, 39 days to go and I haven’t applied for my Schengen Visa which needs a minimum of 21 days for its processing.  The reason why I haven’t filed it yet is because I still lack some important documents which I am having difficulty to obtain.  Visa, When?

But these will not hinder me from desiring to go.  I pray that these challenges will not hinder me from experiencing Jesus Christ.

With these challenges I have been facing for quite some time, I just say, bring it on.  For by the loving grace of God, I will not be shaken.  I see them as opportunities to witness God’s workings in my life.  How the Lord, who is the all-mighty and all-powerful living God, will do His ways for me.

My confidence in the Lord has been tested for so many times this past months.  I honestly say that my confidence is being consumed.  But if I draw it only from God, who is the source of immeasurable confidence, then I will never be out of supply.  It is better to say that “He is my confidence” and if I remain in Him, He will remain in me.

All of these obstacles are part of God’s work in my life, to mold me as the person He wants me to be.  These are like weight lifts; the more I carry them the more my muscles grow.  I desire Jesus Christ experiences in the WYD, but the Lord actually wants something better for me.  He wants me to experience His savior Son not just during the event in Madrid.  He wants me to encounter Him NOW!

During these past five months, these challenges have pointed me to pray harder and more often, and to master the art of fasting.  I have never been this prayerful in my entire life and I have never been much serious about fasting before.  I thank the Lord for He has used these supposedly “burdens and problems” and has taught me to be more prayerful.  Another thing I have learnt in this time, to pray for the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and knowledge to find answers to overcome challenges rather than to pray that God gives you answers

My believe has been strengthened as I was reminded that money should never be a hindrance for me to hear the Word of God.  Instead, it should be an opportunity.  It is an opportunity to find a way, surrender it to God, and let it be a reason to trust in God even more.  The Lord’s providence has never failed me even once, how much more in this situation.

True enough that the Lord provides.  He has been sending many generous people to help me with my finances.  The money is just coming in; opportunities have been opened right in front of me.  I am now in awe.  Amazement is in my heart as I anticipate His next great move.  Who is next to give financial support unexpectedly?

I wanted all documents and requirements I needed to apply for Schengen Visa and I wanted them months ago because I have plans to follow and my time is running out.  Everything is not happening according to my plan because God’s plans are far better than mine.  He knows better that me and He just wants me to trust in His ways without any sign of hesitation.

His timing is perfect, perfect as 100%.  I received the documents I needed months ago at the least time I had expected.  I was surprised when I saw messages with attachments in the Yahoo! Mail.  I was surprised that it made my heart jumped for joy!  I have realized that if I have received it months ago, I will not feel this much joy.  God really has His own ways to make me happy.

As I will apply for Schengen Visa next day, I fully trust and depend to the Lord that He will again surprise me and put my heart in awe as how He has done it many time before.  I am uncertain if I will be approved, but it is certain that greater things are yet to come.  Greater than what I have received before from the Lord.  When the Lord gives, it is always greater than what He has given before.

My WYD 2011 Madrid preparation has been a journey for me towards my spiritual growth, toward holiness.  The Lord has been revealing Himself each and every single day.   And I am seeing Him working in all aspects of my life right now.  My faith cannot stop but to get intimately deep with Him.  My soul continues to yearn for His presence and my heart for His love.  His loud voice whispers inside my heart, telling me to trust and have faith in Him.  His actions through the people, who have been with me in this, clearly show His power and majesty.  Everything that I have seen tells me that nothing truly is impossible with God!

This is the greater things I have been anticipating.  These greater things are from the Lord, for the better of my self for His greater glory.

I lift these things to God.  I surrender everything that I have been working for the WYD.  I pray that all these challenges and hardship continue to be redemptive.  Through them I can get closer to God and have a deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.  And in this case, I can already conclude that I am already having a great “Jesus Christ experience” even before the World Youth Day 2011 Madrid starts on August 11.  My World Youth Day has already started and is on going.

Philippine Independence Day


Independence Day is the day to commemorate all the works of certain people or individuals who contributed much for the liberty of their country.  More that celebrating the freedom of the country from slavery, dictatorship and tyrant rule, it is also the day to acknowledge all the sufferings and hardships of these people we called heroes.  We recognize their bravery and thank them for all the things they contributed for the freedom of their country and countrymen.

Together with few true blooded Filipinos, working in the Warm Heart country of Africa, I also had the chance to celebrate our Independence Day last June 11, Saturday.  It was one day earlier that the actual day though.  With the spirit of “bayanihan” or sharing, we filled four long tables with food, mostly with Filipino recipe. There were the famous chicken adobo, pansit, lumpia, kakanin, chicken and fish inihaw, atsara, afritada, and many more. YUMMY!

Everyone was full during the feast.  The served food was more than enough to feed approximately 35 people.  Left overs filled the refrigerator of the host, some even managed to bring home but I did not.

Everyone was happy all through out the celebration.  We sung our national anthem “Lupang Hinirang” and few nationalistic songs.  Everyone participated in the games that, I and the host, prepared.  I saw how everyone treasures their identity as Filipino and how happy they are for the freedom we are enjoying right now.

I was also very happy that night while remembering the great and fruitful history of my countrymen who fought for the freedom of our mother land.  Our heroes made me more proud to be a Filipino.

Many, like the Philippines, are free countries, but some are not.  But there is this freedom that we “all” possess.  This freedom is far more important and far greater than the freedom of any free nation.  It is more awesome than the freedom of us person to do our will.  This freedom is better expressed by the word salvation.  This salvation was freely given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ who won it through the Cross.

In a story in the Bible, God freed His chosen people from the slavery from the Egyptians.  He used ordinary men like Moses to bring them from slavery to life promised.  It was amazing how God manifested His power and majesty by bringing these ordinary people to the Promised Land by extraordinary ways.

He brought blazing fire to the tyrant ruler to protect His people.  He divided the sea water and let them pass it and at the same time destroy the following oppressors.  He sent mana from above to feed thousands of them. God took care of everything, for His chosen people to experience freedom, true freedom.

But they did not get it.  They missed the point.  They were impatient in reaching the land of flowing milk and honey.  They complained too much.  They lacked faith, they turned away from God and His promises; thus, they lost sight of their freedom.  But God did not stop there.

Since God so love the world, He finally sent His only Son.  To free everyone from the chains of death, from the slavery of SIN!

Jesus Christ has become our hero, our Super Hero!  Who did everything what Father told Him to free us.  He is the hero who embraced sufferings and afflictions for all.  He, who gave up His own divinity and life, finally died, not for Himself, not just for the Israelites, not just for a certain country, but He died for the whole world.  He died for every human being on the planet to save us from slavery, bondage, and from certain death.

The salvation we have in our Lord allows us to be free.  To be free not to do whatever I want and what I think is better, but to be free from sinfulness.  I am free to treasure my identity as a child of God the Father, an heir to His throne.  I am free to choose purity and save sex over safe sex.  Freedom means to choose to do good things and turn away from evil doings, to choose to follow God over the prince of darkness.  That is true freedom.

Jesus Christ Himself conquered our tyrant ruler, the devil, and removed our bondage from the slavery of sin, for us to continue our journey with God towards the land of flowing milk and honey, that He promised to the Israelites and He has also promised to the faithful.  This is the freedom towards the life with God in His kingdom in Heaven.

We only celebrate Independence Day ones in every year.  To commemorate certain person and what he sacrificed for his country.  On the other hand, we celebrate our freedom in God each and every day of our lives and remember the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave not just something but everything, to bring forth true and everlasting salvation to all.

Though July 12, the Philippine Independence Day, has passed and the celebration in my country is over, the celebration of our salvation in the Lord continues!  Happy Salvation Day!

My Dogs Bit Me!


One month ago, I was accidentally bit by my two Jack Russell Terrier, Milo and Patches, because I stopped them from biting each other.  I usually throw water to fighting dogs to stop them.  But unfortunately, there was no water available that time, not even in the refrigerators.  They chose the wrong time to fight.  So I had no choice but to manually stop them before blood spills, meaning to use my hands.

I held their collars, pulled them apart from each other and they both released their bites.  But one of them got slipped from my hand and attacked the other one, again.  And for the second time, I pulled their collars and stopped them from piercing each other’s flesh.  I carried them separately with both my arms back to their collars.  And while I was carrying them, they both slipped from my arms and again attacked each other.  If I managed to break them apart twice without any injury, I was not lucky on the third time.

Again, I pulled them apart from their collars but their bites were stronger this time that they did not release.  Their jaws were somehow locked on each others flesh.  And so, I did the unthinkable.  I used my hands to force open the jaws of the dogs while they were fighting.  I only open dog’s jaw with hands when I give medicine or force feed a sick dog.

After major efforts, I managed to open their jaws, thus releasing both of them.  And I was surprised when I saw blood on their mouth and thought that it was their blood.  I hurriedly put them separately into chains and got first aid kit intended for them. On my way inside the house, I noticed that I have fresh wounds and it was actually my blood that was on my hands.

“My dogs bit me, my dogs bit me”.  I said it to myself as I calmly went to the bathroom and cleaned the wounds.  “Oh snap!  My nail on my left pointing finger was broken into two equal parts and I have some other small cuts and scratches on other fingers.  I cleaned my wounds with water, soap and Carbolic Compound (an antiseptic solution). I also noticed that I cannot feel any pain because my fingers were somehow numbed.

After cleaning and dressing the wounds, I calmly told it to my host and said to them that I need to see a doctor.  With some friends, they accompanied me to the hospital and had my dog bites checked.   The doctor gave me packs of pain reliever and anti-biotic, and she advised me to see a veterinarian.  I asked her, “Veterinarian???”   She told me that the veterinarian will check me up and from him we will know what medicine I am going to take.

In short, I was not totally convinced by the doctor’s advice but I took the medicine.   I have seen people who were bitten by dogs and they immediately received anti-tetanus and anti-rabies vaccines, and so I expected to receive anti tetanus and anti-rabies immediately.

On the following day, I went to my Filipino doctor and told him what happened.  He said that I need to bring the dogs to the veterinarian and have them check and monitor for symptoms of rabies.  My doctor wanted to make sure that nothing worse will happen so he advised me to immediately take anti-tetanus and anti-rabies vaccines even without seeing vets.  I received a dose of anti-rabies on that same day, and two more on the third and seventh day after.

The doctor also instructed me to monitor my dogs for any unusual and sudden changes in their health and behavior for ten straight days.  Dogs that bit people can also get deadly complications due to the possible presence of rabies in their system.  And most of the time, this indicates also the possible presence of rabies in the victim’s system, thus necessary additional anti-rabies vaccines, two in common cases, are required.  Though nothing unusual happened to my dogs with in the ten days of monitoring, my doctor recommended that I receive the two additional dosages of anti-rabies as extra precaution, and so I did.

I have been taking care of different dog breeds since I was a child and this was the first time I was bit by dogs, my own dogs.  But even the well know dog whisperer, Cesar Millan of National Geographic, also have experienced this.  So I believe that this thing is common for dog lovers like me.  It is part of the experience to be bitten by dogs, especially your own dogs.

I was confident enough during those days that nothing worse will happen to me.  For first, my dogs have been properly vaccinated and second, I received proper medical attention from my good doctor.  But my confidence really came from the Lord Himself, who is the source of my strength and courage, who is in control of everything that happens in my life.

My confidence is in the Lord who has saved me before from more difficult situations than this.  How can I not be confident since He was the one who has saved me from great dangers?  He is my confidence and courage, and I will not be afraid for I believe that He has allowed this to happen in lieu of something worst.

Instead, I rejoice!  My heart rejoices!  I know that I share the sufferings on the cross of Jesus Christ.  I am happy because through this the Lord will be known and glorified by many.  Jesus Christ is my Lord who became man, suffered and died for me, and there is no suffering and death that I cannot accept for His sake.

My doctor said that I would be fine and there is nothing to worry about since I completed all the medical treatment, and that nothing unusual happened to my dogs during the monitoring days.

My doctor is true.  There is nothing to worry about because it is God who works in me, through me and with me.  He is the Creator who has created good things.  He is the King who desires only goodness for His people.  He is the Father who looks after and takes care of His precious children.  Indeed, there is nothing to worry about.

My confidence was not in the people who treated me well, but in the one true great healer, Lord Jesus Christ.  To Him who has healed many diseases that no doctor can cure.  To Him who has cured not just the diseases of the corruptible body but also the deadly disease that has imprisoned the souls of humanity – SIN.

I was saved from the deadly rabies not because of the medicines that I have received but because of the Lord who has given great minds to those people who invented these vaccines.

I did not experience any severe complication not because of the doctors and nurses who took care of me, but because of God who has given them the knowledge and skills to cure.

I was protected from something worst because the Lord loves me and nothing, as in nothing can separate me from His everlasting love.

I am now totally safe; many thanks to our Great Healer, Jesus Christ.

Patience is a Virtue


When everything is going our way, our patience is easy to demonstrate. The true test of patience comes when our rights are violated—when another car cuts us off in traffic; when we are treated unfairly, again. Some people think they have a right to get upset in the face of irritations and trials.

The Bible gives importance to patience as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22) and urges all followers of Christ to be patient to one another (Th 5:14). Patience is the endurance under difficult circumstances.  it is being faithful in God’s timing, omnipotence (all-powerful), and love.

Although most people consider “patience” to be a passive waiting or gentle tolerance, it is perseverance.  For example: “Therefore, since we are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and the sin that clings to us and “perseverance” in running the race that lies before us” (Heb 12:1). Does one run a race by passively waiting for slow pokes or gently tolerating cheaters? Certainly not! The word “perseverance” in this verse means “patience and endurance.” A Christian runs the race patiently by persevering through difficulties. In the Bible, patience is persevering towards a goal, enduring trials, or expectantly waiting for the fulfillment of a promise.

Patience does not develop overnight. God’s power and goodness are crucial to the development of patience.  That is why, we should pray unceasingly for one another to be strengthened by Him for all endurance and patience with joy (Col 1:9-12), so that when the trials come, may the testing of our faith produces perseverance (patience) and let be perfect (Jas 1:2-3) as the heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48). Our patience is further developed and strengthened by resting in God’s perfect will and timing.  Our patience will be rewarded in the end like a farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. (Jas 5:7).  We too must be patient, make our hearts firm until the Lords come (Jas 5:8).  Remember that the Lord is good to those who hope in Him.

We see in the Bible many examples of those whose patience characterized their walk with God. James points us to the prophets and those who spoke in the name of the Lord as an example of patience in the face of trials (Jas 5:10). He also refers to Job, whose perseverance was rewarded by the Lord for, because the Lord is compassionate and merciful (Jas 5:11). Abraham, too, waited patiently and received what was promised (Heb 6:13-15). Jesus is our model in all things, and He demonstrated patient endurance: Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God (Heb 12:2).

How do we display the patience that is characteristic of Christ?

First, we thank God.  The normal questions of people is “Why me?”  but we are called to rejoice in His will.

Second, we seek His purposes.  God puts us in difficult situations so that we can be a witness of His saving love and mercy. These trials are for sanctification/ purification of our character and attitude. Remember that His purpose is for our growth.

Third, we remember His promises that all things work for good for those who love him.  The promises for our welfare and the promise of a future full of hope.

The next time you are in a traffic jam, betrayed by a friend, simply waiting for someone, or the situation is not going your way, how will you respond? The natural response is impatience which leads to stress, anger, and frustration.  Always remind ourselves “patience is a virtue” and believe that we are no longer in bondage to a “natural response” because we are new creations in Christ Himself (2 Cor 5:17). Instead, we have the Lord’s strength to respond with patience and in complete trust in the Father’s power and purpose. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life (Rom 2:7).

Virtues for Holy Living (St. Therese of the Child Jesus)


“The Faithful, more precisely the lay faithful, find themselves on the front lines of the Church’s life; for them the Church is the animating principle for human society.  Therefore, they in particular, ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only for belonging to the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth under the leadership of the Pope, the head of all, and of the Bishops in communion with him.”

 – Pius XI

CONFIDENCE – Having a trusting heart in God’s love.

“It was only confidence that could conquer discouragement and depression.  What offends Jesus, what wounds Him to the heart, is lack of confidence.”

 

CHARITY – Putting others before ourselves.

“Charity gave me the key to my vocation.  Then in the excess of my delirious joy, I cried out: Oh Jesus, my love…my vocation, at last I have found it…  My vocation is love!  Nothing is sweeter than to think well of others.”

 

ENDURANCE – Having inner strength and hope.

“It is because of the very acute pain I am feeling that I have always striven to love suffering, both small and great, and to give it a pleasant welcome.”

 

MEEKNESS – Having a submissive spirit for the love of God.

One time, St. Therese was accused of breaking a vase when she was not at fault.  Instead of arguing she sank to her knees and begged forgiveness.

 

GENEROSITY – Having an offering heart for God.

“The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”

 

WISDOM – Having the power of discernment.

“Far more noble is that learning which flows from above, from the divine influence, than that which with work is acquired by the industry of man.”

 

TEMPERANCE – Having self-mastery and control of passions.

“I made my mortification consist solely in the breaking of my will, restraining a hasty word, rendering little services to those around me without making anything of it, and a thousand other things of this kind.”

 

HUMILITY – Knowing we are nothing without God.

“I am not relying on my own merits, as I have none, but I put my hope in Him who is goodness and holiness Himself.”

 

OBEDIENCE – Having the will to follow the footsteps of God.

“We must forget ourselves, and put aside our tastes and ideas, and guide souls not by our own way, but along the path which our Lord points out…  Yes, all is well when we seek only the will of Jesus.”

 

DESIRE – Yearning to be with God.

“I have always wanted to become a saint…  I told myself:  God would not make me wish for something impossible and so, in spite of my littleness, I can aim at being a saint.”

 

PRAYERFUL – Having a loving heart to be with God in all things.

“I seek the beauty of heaven.  I was ready to become a prisoner in order to give this heavenly beauty to other souls…  I would willingly spend the whole of my religious life in this dark underground passage, if by it I might win light for sinners…  Let us not grow tired of prayer.”

 

SERENITY – Having a calm disposition of the soul.

“When things that are irritable or disagreeable befall me, instead of assuming an air of sadness, I respond by a smile.  At first I was not always successful, but now it is a habit which I am very happy to have acquired.”

Pornography – Breaking the Habit


Pornography is any visual representation of sexuality, which leads into the pollution of the mind and body, heart and soul of any person.  It stimulates the mind, thus gives sensual pleasure and urges to anyone who looks at it.

Pornography alters the sexual human attitudes and human behavior of anyone.  Many are not aware of the negative and destructive effects of addiction to pornography.

Here are some but harmful effects of porn addiction to individuals, relationships, marriages and families:

  • Porn addiction escalates (Desensitization):  All porn addicts experience an increasing lust and seek for more perverse form.  Eventually, “soft-porn” is not stimulating anymore, so they try the “hard-core”.  They become more obsessed and go deeper into it.
  • Addiction to porn is addiction to masturbation: Those addicted to porn are almost always addicted to masturbation. This is true since the sexual urges of the person become so strong that masturbation becomes the easiest way of release.
  • One starts to act it out: Those who regularly view porn have higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality.  Thus, they have greater tendency to act out those sexual behaviors on others, at all cost. This may include premarital sex, rape, group sex, having sex with children or old people, etc.
  • It brings dissatisfaction into sex life:  Researches reveal that spouses of porn addicts are affected as “sex does not satisfy the addict as it once did”, they loss interest in sexual intercourse.  And since porn promotes “perfect sex fantasies”, men who look at it became dissatisfied with their wife’s appearance and performance and this, in most cases leads to dysfunctional relationships.
  • It brings dissatisfaction into married life:  Married men who are involved in pornography feel less satisfied with their conjugal relations and less emotionally attached to their wives.  Furthermore, it becomes a pathway to infidelity and divorce, and often the major reason in the destruction of family.
  • It produces shame and guilt:  Many adolescents who view porn initially feel shame, diminished self-confidence, guilt, and sexual uncertainty, but these feelings quickly shift to unadulterated enjoyment with regular viewing
  • It puts un-erasable images in your mind: Men who are no longer view porn fight with mental images for years.  These images just flashes in their minds both when they are awake or asleep.
  • It brings a notion of women as objects:  Men with prolonged addiction to porn form belief of women as properties, commodities or “sex objects”.

In our present generation of rapid development in technological advancement and mass communication, many people of all ages and status are under the influence of pornography.  For so many years and it has penetrated the heart and mind of people of both gender.  This influence only brings destruction to relationships, human behavior, emotion and family and life.

I have two reasons why we need to stop the habit of pornography:

  1. It destroys our relationship with God.  Thus, brings us away from His glory (Romans 3:23).
  2. Because of the harmful effects which I mentioned above.

“Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15).

Then how do we break the habit of porn? Here are some ways to break this habit.

1.   Many people, who try to overcome the habit, practically find it impossible.  To overcome porn addiction, we must first believe and be assured that it is very possible to overcome the habit.  St. Paul said it to his letter to the Romans that where “sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Romans 5:20).  The overflowing grace of God outmatches the productivity of sin.  It is possible to overcome this habit “to him who believes” (Mark 9:23)

2.   Elevate your motivation.  The higher the driving force, the more we can overcome the addiction.  It fuels your good intention of breaking the habit.  Check your motivation.  What motivates you to break the habit?  Are you doing this because it is embarrassing and might get caught by someone?  Elevate your motivation; break the habit out of your respect either to your sister, mother, wife, girlfriend, or to all women.  Or best, do it out of your love and obedience to God and to become a good and worthy husband.

3.   Be a man of prayer.  Prayer is very powerful and effective way to anyone who wishes to persevere in purity.  Hear Mass more often.  Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Have a devotion to the Blessed Mother Mary.  Make it a habit to pray the Holy Rosary.  Read the Bible everyday.  “Pray that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:40).

4.   Do whatever you can to avoid the occasions of sin: the lusts of the flesh.  Throw immediately all your pornographic materials, videos, magazines, posters, pictures, etc.  I suggest that destroy them first before throwing to the trash bins.  You don’t want anyone to pick them up and use them.  Delete porn materials in your computer’s hard drives and also in your recycle bin.  Wipe the internet history and it is helpful to install filtering softwares.  You can also try to lessen your internet usage, especially when you don’t really need to use it, to lessen your chance to visit any porn sites.

Remember, destroy ALL!  Do not even think of saving a single one because one pornographic material can escalate again the addiction and you will find yourself collecting these stuffs again.

5.   Temptations are all around us.  Sexy girls are being shown in TV.  They are always present in the internet.  They are in the magazine stands, movies to watch, etc.  And since we are living in a generation of mass communication, we cannot get rid of all tendencies to sin.

A good friend of mine once told me, “If you come face to face with temptation (pornography), do not entertain it, JUST RUN!”  We cannot totally remove them, but we can say no to pornography and “flee from it as from a serpent.  That it will bite you if you go near it; its teeth are lion’s teeth, destroying the soul of men” (Sirach 21:2).  God “will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

6.   Find an accountability partner that will encourage you and build you up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).  It would be better if this person is as the same gender as you.  Look for a person with whom you can be honest about your habit and be accountable to him.  A family member, a Priest, a Brother or Nun, a good friend, or brethren in your community or church that can help you fight the battle against your habit and pray for you so that you may be healed.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…”  (James 5:16)

7.   I also suggest to join an organization or advocacy movement like “Live Pure Movement” to help you deepen your conviction to be chaste and help you in your fight against the habit of porn.  You may visit livepuremovement.com for more information.

There is no short cut in breaking the habit of pornography.  It is a hard, narrow path.  It will take a person months or even years to overcome it.  But with a strong desire of the heart to live a life of purity, one thing is very sure, “nothing is impossible to God” (Luke 1:37).  And many people have already been victorious in breaking the habit and they have found a better life that offers great opportunities.

Jason Evert said “when a person looks at pornography, on some level he is looking for love.”  It is true since the woman on it looks like she is entirely yours, though there are other more men who feel the same way as you do towards her.  “…And through that woman’s beauty many perish, for lust for it burns like fire” (Sirach 9:8).

Selfless love is the only key for a man to properly love a woman.  Getting rid of porn in our lives should not be seen as a lost, rather an opportunity to grow in that selflessness; to grow in love.  Living a life of purity will not make a man less than a man.  The virtue of purity will not rob you of your sexual desire.  It will not take away your appreciation of beauty.  Instead you will be able to learn to value woman as a special creation of God; as someone to be respected and love, and not just as sex object.  Purity will open our eyes to see the real beauty in every woman which is inside her heart and not inside her dress.  It will teach us how to selflessly love a woman which I believe every man desires.

Throw you pornographic materials and decide to love women and you will realize that the temporary satisfaction of porn was just an illusion, and we will also see that there are more things that illusion.  Porn is the fantasy that promises us pleasure but actually destroys our life; it gives nothing but shallow promises.

I hope and pray that more and more men (also women) may find a deep conviction to live a life of purity and chastity, and decide to love women for the sake of love.

“Free your mind.  Speak with grace.  Be Chaste!” – Live Pure Movement

Maturity In Prayer and In Relationships


By Fr. Ronald Rolheiser

The Catholic Herald – The Last Word

Several years ago, a friend shared the following story with me.  Raised a Catholic and essentially faithful in going to church and in trying to live an honest moral life, he found himself, in his mid-40s, plagued by doubts, unable to pray, and unable (when he was honest with himself) to even believe in the existence of God.

Anxious about this and looking for spiritual guidance, he went to see a Jesuit priest who had a reputation as a spiritual director.  He anticipated the usual councel about dark nights of the soul and how these are given to us to purify our faith and, already familiar with that literature, he wasn’t expecting much.  Centainly he wasn’t expecting the advice he received.

His Jesuit guide didn’t try to engage him in any deep theological reflections on doubt and dark nights of faith. Instead like Elisha to Naaman, the Syrian leper, he gave my friend a counsel that sounded so simplistic that it triggered irritation rather than hope.  The Jesuit simply told him: “Make a promise to yourself to sit in silent prayer for a half an hour a day for the next six months.  I promise you that if you are faithful to that you will, by that time, recover your sense of God.”

My friend, beyond being upset with what he felt was an over-simplistic bit of advice, protested that the biggest part of his problem was precisely that he couldn’t pray, that he couldn’t talk to a God whom he didn’t believe existed: how can I pray when I no longer believe that there is a God?

The Jesuit persisted: “Just do it!  Show up and sit in silent prayer for half an hour a day, even if you fell like you are talking to a wall. It’s the only practical advice I can give you.”

Despite his scepticism, my friend took the Jesuit’s advice and faithfully sat in silent prayer for half an hour a day for six months and, by the end of that time, his sense of God had returned, as had his sense of prayer.  This story, I believe, highlights something important: our sense of God’s existence is very much linked to fidelity to prayer.  But, and this is the Catch-22, it is hard to sustain a life of prayer precisely because our sense of God is often weak.  Simply put, it is not easy to pray.  We have easy words about prayer, but we struggle to sustain, long term, real prayer in our lives.  Prayer is easy only for beginners and for those who are already saints.  During all the long years in between, it is difficult.  Why?  Because prayer has the same inner dynamics as love and love is sweet only in its initial stage, when we first fall in love, and again its final, mature stage.  In between, love I hard work, dogged fidelity, and needs wilful commitment beyond what is normally provided by our emotions and our imagination.

Prayer works in the same way.  When we first begin to pray, like someone young and in love, we tend to have a period of fervour, of passion, a time when our emotions and our imaginations help give us a sense that God exists and that God hears our prayers. But as we grow deeper and more mature in our relationship with God, just as in a relationship with someone we love, reality begins to dispel an illusion.  It’s not that we become disillusioned with God, but rather that we come to realise that so many of the warm thoughts and feeelings we believed were about God were really about ourselves.  Disillusionment is a good thing.  It’s the dispelling of an illusion.  What we thought was prayer was partly a spell of enchantment about ourselves.

When that disillusionment sets in, and this a maturing moment in our lives, it is easy to believe that we were deluded about the other, the person we had fallen in love with or, in the case of  prayer, God.  The easy response then is to back away, to quit, to see the whole thing as having been an illusion, a false start.  In the spiritual life, that’s usually when we stop praying.

But the opposite is called for.  What we need to do then is to show up, just as we did before, minus the warm thought and feelings, bored, uncertain, and stripped of our enchantment about ourselves.  The deeper we go in relationships and in prayer, the more unsure of ourselves we become, and this is the beginning of maturity.  It’s when I say “I don’t know how to love and I don’t know how to pray” that I first begin to understand what love and pryaer actually are.  Hence there is no better advice than that given by this Jesuit priest to my friend who thought himself as atheist: “Just show up!” Sit in humility and silence long anough so that you can begin to hear someone else, not yourself.

God Will Not Rest Until Everyone Is At The Table


By Fr. Ronald Rolheiser

The Catholic Herald – The Last Word

One of the marks of a Christian heart is the desire for inclusivity, the desire to ultimately be in communion with as many people as possible, to have everyone in heaven with you without demanding that they become just like you to get there.  Sadly, we tend to harbour the opposite attitude, though we are slow to admit this.

We all like to think of ourselves as big-hearted, as having wide compassion, and as loving like Jesus did, but too much within both our attitudes and our actions belies this.  Our own love, truth and worship are often unconsciously predicated on making ourselves right by making others wrong.  Too often we have an unconscious mantra which says: I can only be good, if someone else is bad.  I can only be right, if someone else is wrong.  My dogma can only be true if someones else’s is false.  My religion can only be right if someone else’s is wrong.  My Eucharist can only be valid if someone else’s is invalid.  And I can only be in heaven if someone else is in hell.

We justify this attitude of separation and moral-religious superiority by appealing to various things:  correct dogma, the need for justice, proper morality, right ecclesiology and correct liturgical practice, among other things.  And there’s some truth in this.  To have your heaven include everyone does not mean that truth, morality and Chruch practice all become relative, that it’s of no ultimate consequence what one believes or how one acts and worships.  Our Christian scriptures and our subsequent tradition warn us clearly that there are certain rights and wrongs and that certain attitudes and actions can exclude us from God’s Kingdom, heaven.  But those same scriptures make it equally clear that God’s salvific will is universal and that God’s deep, constant, passionate longing is that everyone – absolutely everyone, regardless of their attitude and actions – be somehow brought into the house.   God, it seems, does not want to rest until everyone is home, eating at the same table.

Jesus, uncompromisingly, teaches the same thing.  For example, in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, he weaves together three stories to make this point: the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep in order to search for the one stray; the woman who has 10 coins, loses one, and cannot rest until she has found her lost coin; and the father who loses two sons, one to weakness and one to anger, and will not rest until he has both back in the house.

I particularly like the middle story, the one about the woman with the lost coins, because it is the most clear in making this point: a woman has 10 coins, she loses one, frantically searches for it, puts on extra lights and sweeps her house, and finally she finds it, is overjoyed, calls in her neighbours, and has a celebration that clearly costs more than what the coin itself was worth.  Why her franatic pursuit of one small coin?  And why her great joy in finding it?  What’s really at issue is not the value of the coin but the loss of wholeness: for a Hebrew at the time, 10 was a number of wholeness, nine was not.  Hence we might re-cast the story this way:  A woman is the mother of 10 children.  Nine come to visit her regularly and share their lives with her, but one is alienated and refuses to come home or ever talk to her.  The woman cannot rest and tries everything imaginable to try to reconcile.  She is overjoyed, phones her friends and throws a party.  Her family is whole again.

The same dynamic holds true for the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to search for the lost sheep.  For a Hebrew at that time, tha number 99 did not designate wholeness, but the number 100 did.  The shepherd is like the mother with the alienated daughter; he cannot rest until his family is once again made whole.  We see the same longing, passion and sadness in the Father of the Prodigal Son and older brother.  He cannot rest, nor be at peace, until both his sons are back in the house.  He is overjoyed when his wayward son returns but the story ends with him still outside the house, trying to coax his other son, outside because of anger, to also come inside.  His heaven includes both his sons.

Our heaven, too, must be a wide one.  Like the woman who lost a coin, like the shepherd who has lost a sheep, and like the father of the Prodical Son and older brother, we too shouldn’t rest easy when others are separated from us.  The family is only happy when eveyone is home.

Chastity and the Enchantment of Life


By Fr. Ronald Rolheiser

The Catholic Herald – The Last Word

More than a generation ago Albert Camus wrote: “Chastity alone is connected with personal progress.  There is a time when moving beyond it is a victory, when it is released from its moral imperatives.  But this quickly turns to defeat afterwards.”  What does he mean by those words?  Whatever they mean, they are not understood by our generation.  Today’s world, with few exceptions, considers the move beyond chastity as anything but a defeat.  Instead it is progress, a liberation from a past ignorance, an eating of the forbidden fruit that is more of an entry into Eden than an expulsion from it.  Today chastity is seen as naiveté, frigidity, lack of nerve, an innocence to be pitied.

A salient example of this can be seen in the debate surrounding Aids and teenage pregnancy.  In this discussion the argument for chastity is generally seen as naïve, impractical, narrow, religious, old-fashioned and even dangerous.  Conversely, those who argue on the basis of safe sex (as if that wasn’t an oxymoron) claim the intellectual and moral high ground.  The same holds true today in virtually the entire discussion around sexuality.  Chastity is given little place and little respect.  At best, it is seen as an impractical ideal, at worst as something to be pitied or ridiculed.  This is not progress.  Why?

Because, in the end, chastity is partially the key to everything: joy, family, love, community, and even the full enjoyment of sex.  When a society is chaste, family can happen; when a family is chaste, it will find joy in tis everyday life; when lovers are chaste, they will experience the full ecstasy of sex; when a Church is chaste, it will experience the Holy Spirit.  The reverse is also true.  Chaos, joylessness, division, erotic numbness, and hardness of heart are generally a fault in chastity.  To say this, though, implies a certain understanding of chastity.  What is chastity?

Generally we identify chastity with a certain sexual reticence or simply with celibacy.  This is too narrow.  To be chaste does not mean that one does not have sex, nor does it imply that one is a prude.   Chastity, at its root, is not primarily even a sexual concept, though given the power and urgency of sex, faults in chastity often are with in the area of sexuality.  Chastity has to do with all experience.  It is about the appropriateness and maturity of any experience, sex included.  Chastity is reverence and all sin, in the end, is irreverence.

To be chaste is to experience people, things, places, entertainment, the phases of one’s life, life’s opportunities, and sex, in a way that does not violate them or ourselves.  Chastity means to experience things reverently, so that the experience of them leaves both them and ourselves more, not less, integrated.  Thus, I am chaste when I relate to others in a way that does not violate their moral, psychological, emotional, sexual, or aesthetic contours.  I am chaste when I do not let irreverence or impatience ruin what is a gift, when I let life, others, and sex, be fully what they are.  Conversely, I lack chastity when I transgress boundaries prematurely or irreverently, when I violate anything so as to somehow reduce its full gift.

Chastity is respect and reverence.  The fruits of that are integration, gratitude and joy.  Lack of chastity is irreverence.  The fruits of that are disintegration, bitterness and cynicism.

Allan Bloom, the famed educator, speaking purely as a secular observer without any religious angle whatsoever, affirmed 20 years ago that a lack of chastity in our culture, particularly among the young, is perhaps the deepest cause of unhappiness and flatness in our lives.  He submits that lack of chastity has, paradoxically, robbed us of passion and rendered us erotically lame.  We have, he asserts, experienced too much, too soon.  We have sophisticated ourselves into boredom and unhappiness.  We have been to too many places and done too many things before we were ready for them.  The result is that we have stripped life, love and sex of their capacity to enchant us.  We have, through lack of chastity, desacrelised our experience and robbed it of its capacity to enchant soul.

He’s right, and the re-enchantment of our souls will be predicated on reinstating a proper chastity into our lives.  Our generation suffers too much from boredom, disrespect, emotional chaos, lack of family, sexual irresponsibility, despondency, cynicism and lack of delight.  We need to be slower in denigrating chastity and more honest in assessing what constitutes victory and what constitutes defeat in our lives.

My First Time…


I have been here in Malawi for almost 8 months and I realized that there are so many things that I have experienced for the first time since I left the Philippines.  And I have made a list of them.

My first time…

  1. To ride an international airplane.  I liked the free Ceres fruit juices and the free movies aboard the plane.
  2. To set my foot in Hong Kong.  Even just inside the airport.
  3. To eat a well prepared Japanese ramen.  Thanks ate Iyam for the treat!
  4. To go outside the Philippine territory.
  5. To be thousand miles away from my family.  I miss them.
  6. To go on foreign mission.  Malawi is my first foreign country.
  7. To give a talk in straight English.  I got “nose bleed”
  8. To eat fried grass hoppers.  It tastes like dried fish.
  9. To eat fried “gumbi”.  It is like a big flying ant.
  10. To own two Jack Russell Terriers.  They are really nice dogs.
  11. To own my very first driver’s license.  And I got it here in Malawi.
  12. To watch a live soccer game.  It was between Malawi and Togo and the Malawians dominated the game.
  13. To celebrate and commemorate these special Christian seasons here in Malawi.  All Souls Day, All Saints Day, Christmas, New Year, Valentines Day, Lent and Holy Week.  There are more special seasons to come.
  14. To experience hail storm.  They were real ice pellets from the sky.
  15. To own a Levi’s 501 Jeans.  I have two already and more to come: )
  16. To eat roasted lamb! Yum yum!
  17. To meet Uncle Nani and Aunt Bing Almanza of CFC FFL USA.  I hope to see you again.
  18. To lead a worship while playing the guitar.
  19. To drive for a very long distance – 80 km straight.  It was tiring but exciting.
  20. To see plants of strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry.  And they are all available here in Malawi.
  21. To see a 14-inch banana.
  22. To meet a Malawian.  Of course!
  23. To swim on one of the deepest lake in the World – Lake Malawi.
  24. To hold a Youth Camp in English Language.
  25. To have a small strawberry farm at our back yard.
  26. To see giant millipeds, giant snails, giant ants.  I think everything here is over-sized.
  27. To see Chameleons.  They really change colors as they camouflage.
  28. To see a Black Mamba (not Kobe Bryant) snake.  The largest venomous snake in Africa and second largest snake in the world, next to the King cobra.
  29. To own a Malawian Kwacha and to learn few Chichewa words.  (Malawi’s currency and national language)
  30. To hike Malawi’s oldest forest reserve.  The Zomba Plateau.
  31. To see a Chinese store in Africa!  Chinese are everywhere, haha!
  32. To be mistaken as a Chinese.  I am not a Chinese I am a Filipino!
  33. To ride a Peugeot 407 and Benz Kompressor C200! Awesome cars but I still like my Red Toyota Conquest hatchback type.
  34. To have a tour in Majete wildlife Reserve.   I saw the following wild animals: Nyala (deer), African Elephant, Hippopotamus, Zebra and Buffalo.  I want to see a lion in next safari tour.
  35. To enter a huge second-hand bookstore.  You can buy as low as Php 15.00 (MK 50.00). Calling all book lovers!

This list is not yet done, I will always update it.  I know that the Lord will continue to allow me to experience for the first time small and great things.  And He wants me to remember them for they are the reasons why I am greatly amazed in Him!

Amazing experiences from my amazing God!

God’s Camp


For several months before I came to Malawi, the chapter of CFC YFL Lunzu, unlike the other four chapters, had only one member.  This member used to join the couples in their households.  And since I arrived, our weekly households had always been just the two of us.  Our situation was like this for seven months. The situation has motivated me to inspire the young member, and to dream big for Lunzu.

My desire is that more youth will be able to know Jesus Christ through this ministry.  And Phillip, the only member, shares the same vision with me.  By God’s grace and Spirit, we were inspired to plan our first Youth Camp in Lunzu.

We only had exactly one month to prepare for the camp since we first planned it.  We have foreseen great challenges and hardships but my heart was strong because the spirit of the Lord has been with us.  He was the one who has inspired me to initiate the activity despite the fact that only the 3 of us, Phillip, Iyam (my mission partner) and I, will animate it.  There were so many oppressions but the Lord’s grace has never failed.

Everything about the Youth Camp was uncertain:  The venue, food, budget, facilitator, speakers, sharers, and others.  But one thing was certain for me, it was God who called me to lead this Youth Camp and He has asked for my trust and confidence in Him.  There were hesitations and questions among the CFC and the service team however, God has also put assurance and confidence in their hearts.

Two weeks before the Youth Camp, challenges poured upon us.  There were concerns with the venue’s electricity and water supply.  We were still looking for CFC who will help in the preparation of the food for the participants.  We were targeting 20 participants but only 3 has confirmed yet.  We have also a big challenge with the food budget.  Due to financial constraints of the participants, we only asked 500.00 Malawian Kwacha (MK) from them for their 5 meals and the cheapest single meal costs about MK 300.00.  Lastly, I am the only one among us who has experiences on Youth Camps.

God has let me to use these challenges as my stepping-stones to love, hope and persevere.  I saw them as a chance to be more prayerful and to be fearless.  They were opportunities for me to put my trust and confidence in the Lord.  These are opportunities for me to witness the power and strength of God.  To conduct the Youth Camp was nearly impossible but God has made things possible for us.

During one CFC gathering, a potential prospect for the Handmaids ministry in Lunzu who owns a restaurant, offered us help.  She said that she will provide the food for the camp.  We told her that we can only pay MK 500.00 for five meals.  Without any hesitation, she agreed and told us that she will cover the additional expenses!  She provided us more than enough food for everyone.

The Youth Camp venue, which was a nursery school with only 3 small rooms, was changed 5 hours before the start of the Youth Camp.  The Parish Priest suddenly decided for us to use another venue which is inside the parish compound.  But it was a big surprise for me because the new school was better than the first.  It has more and better toilets, bigger rooms, there was a good source of tap water, and the electricity was available.

But there were also concerns with the new venue.  Initially, the administrator of the school only allowed us to use two rooms and did not allow us to use the toilets.  So I really made a serious negotiation with them.  God has put a compassionate heart to the administrator and finally, they allowed us to use all the toilets and three rooms.

While the houses near the school had electricity, the school power was down and we cannot find the main switch.  There were only 3 hours left before the participants arrive.  It was in this situation that the service team started to doubt and be disheartened.  I told them, “If God has provided us this new venue He will also provide all important things for us to use it”.  And after an hour of asking people and looking for ways to have power in the venue, we finally found a small common switch that connects the entire school to the main breaker.

All things were set and the participants started arriving.    Fourteen participants arrived out of the 20 targeted.  But most of them were late and very few had their parents or guardians with them.  So we adjusted the start of the program.  Even though, they were sent by God and this was the number God wanted us to manage.  I was still glad.

The first night was challenging because the members of the service team were all adjusting, including me.  There were 2 participants who hardly understand English, so we looked for a participant who can translate it in Chichewa for them.  It was my first time to be so multi-tasking in a camp.  I was the music ministry, speaker of the first talk, emcee, game master and facilitator, while leading the team.   The night went very well, they all enjoyed their sumptuous dinner, participated in the games, they were all listening to my talk and to the sharing of Iyam and Phillip, and all members in my discussion group eagerly shared their experiences.  It was physically draining, but spiritually fulfilling.

A weird thing happened during the second day of the Youth Camp. Our morning started with an apprehension.  A woman, who used to be a house helper of Phillip, went to our camp venue.   She was acting very strangely and was trying to go inside the venue, Phillip tried to asked her to leave but she was not listening.  She was so strange that the parish security was alarmed.  They tied her arms and legs while she was saying nonsense.   They tried to bring her out of the parish church compound but they failed.  The woman again tried to enter the gate of our venue.  I looked at her eyes and told her to go to the church.  And I was surprised that she did.  She left leaving everyone uneasy.  It was the power of God who saved us from that odd incident.

Thought the day started with the odd incident, the participants and the team were still full of excitement.  It was a day full of hope in the Lord.

The participants learned new songs and played games.  They love the song “Heart of Worship” and the games “category” and “man-rabbit-gun”.  Prayer time and worship was introduced and they all openly participated.  A member from another chapter gave the second talk and many have realized that Jesus Christ, though our Lord, can be a personal God.  And then Phillip gave his sharing.  I gave the third talk and many were enlightened on the sins that we need to repent for.  I saw that most of them listened carefully and were very much interested in all the topics and activities.

There was some oppression during the afternoon program.  Some participants sneaked out of the venue that gave us, facilitator, hard time to look for them thus, delaying the activities.   Another thing was the confession.  The Parish Priest who should give the confession just arrived from a long travel and out of tiredness asked another priest to do the confession.  But the priest only entertained 3 of the participants.  So majority of the participants did not have their confession.  But the good thing was some of them had confessions weeks before the Youth Camp.  Lastly, the power was down the whole afternoon and Phillip told me that it was unusual to have power interruption that day and that long.  The team anticipated that it will continue until the night session, so I bought candles as a preparation.   Everyone on the team kept holding on to our faith and trusting that God is in control.

The critical time arrived.  The most important part of the Youth Camp is the night of the second day where the fourth talk, “commitment to Christ ceremony” and the “pray-over session” will happen.  We still did not have electricity and we had our dinner with candles.  The team and the CFC who visited got somehow worried and I told them during our team worship that this is the work of the Lord and our faith should not be bothered,  that we should continue believing, trusting, serving and loving.   The power went back few minutes before we start the evening session.

I lead the fourth talk and after that, I asked everyone to make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as their Lord and receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  All fourteen participants stood up as a sign of accepting the invitation of Jesus Christ of personal relationship with Him.  My heart was full of joy that moment.  And during the pray-over session, I saw the members of my discussion group prayed seriously as I lead one by one.  And they all thanked me for helping them have good prayers.  The night ended with group worship as a celebration of receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  And after that, we watched a movie as part of our entertainment night.

My faith was really being tested during the second night.  After the activities, I was so hungry and went to eat the dinner that was kept for me, and then I found out that it was already eaten by a black cat!  But the Lord provided me some food from a participant’s mother who brought food for her daughter.

I really thank God for His protection and guidance that the second day was so powerful and every participants and service team member have felt the great love of God.  I have witnessed great things from the Lord that day and my Spirit has rejoiced in the Lord.

The Lord is a consistent God.  He blessed our preparations, the first day, the second day and He continued blessing us until the last day.  Our third and last day was Palm Sunday.  So one hour after the breakfast we attended the Palm Sunday Mass.  There were so many people who attended and so we sit outside instead.  But everyone managed to participate in the Mass.

Then we went back to our venue to start our fifth and last talk that was given by Iyam.  After the talk, we continued to the last part of the camp which was the “child-parents dialogue”.   Though half of the participants’ parents did not arrive, I believe that the goals were still hit: To help both children and parents to reconcile, to help everyone heal any resentment and hatred and to be able to pray for one another (parents to child and child to parent).

Before leaving, we took the chance and listened to some very inspiring sharing from the participants and service team and we ended the Youth Camp with a prayer.  Everyone left the venue full of joy and love in their hearts from the Lord.

Fourteen youth graduated from the camp and we already have two households meetings since then.  From one member it grew, by God’s grace.  From a dream, it became a reality.  But this is just the start of more great things from the Lord!  I hope and pray that through God’s grace and mercy all of them may continue to know Jesus and get more in love with Him.

The participant and parents were thanking us for the Jesus Christ experience.  Little they know that I also have a wonderful Jesus Christ experience.  I have again witnessed the awesome power and strength of God, His overflowing grace and mercy, and His undying love for each and every one of us.  And this experience will remain inside my mind and my heart forever.

My Driver’s License


I have learnt how to drive as early as 10 years old and it was my father who taught me.  He taught me the basics of driving, and how to be a responsible and defensive driver.  He also taught me some special skills such as making emergency brake.  For me, he was an excellent driver because he self-taught himself, he was a responsible driver, and he never had any car accident on the road.

When I was already 18 and ready to apply for a driver’s license, my family sold all our two vehicles.   This situation gave me a reason not to apply for a license since there was no car to drive.  And because of my wrong principle, my skill has not put into any good use yet.

I never had imagined that one day God will use this skill for the fulfillment of His plan.  The Lord has brought me here in Malawi to drive with His caravan under His message of love.

Due to the growing work of evangelization and the travel distance of the mission areas in Malawi, not to mention the limited availability of public transportation, owning a good vehicle is an advantage.  The Lord has given that advantage by providing us a red Toyota Conquest that we call “Mission Car”.

But since I do not have any driver’s license, which is my fault, we had to use the only option – to depend on our host, the Mbekeani family, and on their truck drivers to drive for us.  They drove for us for four months and it was a little burden for them since they have their own work to do.  And I really thank them for the sacrifices they have made for the furtherance of the mission.

 HUMILITY

“The key in mastering a certain skill is humility.  To admit that you don’t know it and you need someone else to teach you”.

November of 2010, my journey to obtain a driver’s license has begun.  With the help of our host family, Uncle George and Aunt Rose, they got me a personal driving instructor to teach me how to drive.  He will teach me for 20 sessions at one hour each session.

I was hesitant at first and I questioned it, because it cost a lot of money and I told them that I have already refreshed myself when uncle Efren Aguirre was still here, who allowed me to drive occasionally.  I told them that I do not need 20 sessions and can have less instead, to save time and money.  But they insisted because they wanted to make sure that I am in good shape when I apply for a license.

The Lord reminded me to humble myself and submit to what is best for me and for the mission.  The Lord has stripped me off my pride.   I was reminded that I was weak and I need Him to strengthen me; that I was not a good driver and I need to learn from others.

UNLEARN TO LEARN THINGS

“A glass which is full cannot hold any water anymore.  A person cannot learn a thing if he knows it already”.

My personal instructor taught me the basics of driving and I was telling myself that I knew them already.  I know how to shift gears properly, to use the signal lights, the hand brake, accelerator, brake and clutch pedals.  I know how to do an emergency brake when the car brake fails.  I was thinking about these things and I was arrogant.

The voice of God has spoken to me, He told me that if I wanted to learn and be a better driver, I need to remove everything that I have learnt and learn from my personal instructor whether I know it already or not.

He was right.  So I acted like someone who is new with cars.  I listened to the instructor and followed his directions.  And I must admit that our sessions really helped me a lot in refreshing my skill.  I managed to get my long-lost driving skills back and I have remembered important points in driving.  My instructor is not as good as my dad but I must admit that he was also used by God to teach me His ways.

After my private driving lessons, I enrolled in “Quick Pass Driving School”.  To enrol in any accredited driving school is a requirement to apply for a driving exam.  I only took 5 sessions of 30 minutes each.  I took less than the usual 20 sessions because they said that I already know how to drive and it is enough for me to apply for the driving examination.

In my 5 sessions, I mastered driving on “round abouts” (an intersection system with out the use of traffic lights).  Since we do not have this in my country, except the “Quezon Memorial Circle” in Quezon City, learning this is very important because it is very common here.  I maximized the opportunity to learn more driving skills.

I asked my instructor how was my driving and if I can pass the examination.  And he said that I am a good driver and I can pass the exam.  It motivated me to do my best in the exam, applying everything that I learned from the past months.  Aside the practical examination, one thing that I prepared for was the Highway Code examination (road signs).  I memorized more than 40 different road signs.

Right after the 5 days of schooling, they got me an examination schedule from the Road Traffic Department (RTD). I was really excited to take the exam.

PRAY

“Ask and you will receive it from God, seek and He will let you will find it, knock and the door of Heaven will be opened to you”.

I lifted to God everything about my driving examination.  I believe in the power of prayers, if I humbly come before the Lord and ask Him for His grace and mercy, He will set everything in its proper place.  I have asked Him that I may enjoy the experience and no harm may come near us.  The Lord has asked me to offer Him Masses and daily praying of the Rosaries.

My preparation for the exam was not just about the skills or the memorization of signs but also about the preparation of my heart and bearing in mind the will of the Lord.

PRAY FOR THE POSTURE OF YOUR HEART

“Ask the Lord not to grant your heart’s desire, rather to give you the right posture of your heart.”

March 17 at 10 am, the day has finally come for my driving examination. I woke up very early in the morning and was excited.  I started the day with my daily morning prayer, I asked the King of Mercy for His guidance.

I went to the RTD with my instructor and my mission partner.  I went inside a room and there I had my Highway Code exam.  Praise God that I answered all questions correctly, thus passing it.  Then they asked me to stay at the parking area, stand beside the car that I am going to use and wait for my examiner.

While waiting for my examiner, I was praying to God that He may work through me, to bless the vehicle that I am going to use, to bless the road and also my examiner.  I didn’t ask Him to pass me in the exam, but to give me the right posture of my heart that I can think and act properly whatever happens.

After 30 minutes of waiting, a Malawian examiner approached me and asked me to aboard the car.  I started the car and we went outside the premises of RTD.  The examiner asked me to do certain maneuvers such as “right and left reverse”, “3 turns” and full turn on a “round about”.

We went back to the RTD office after it.  And the examiner asked me to wait for the result.  After 30 minutes, they called my name and asked me to go inside a room.  They closed the door and they announced the result to me alone. “Mr Ramos, I am very sorry to say that you fail the practical examination!”  I turned silent upon hearing it.  I was a bit surprised because I know that my driving really went very well.

With a smile on my face, I asked the examiner why did I fail and what areas do I need to improve on?  He said that I was driving too fast for an examiner (the allowed maximum speed for an examiner is 40 km/h and my average maximum speed was 30 km/h), I need to improve on my hand signal (there are 4 different hand signals), and I have a problem with shifting gears (there was a problem with the gear of the car that I used).

I was about to argue with the examiner but thank the Lord that He has reminded me to stay calm and accept the decision.  He wanted me to show love and kindness to the examiner who failed me.  I thanked the examiner and told him that I will just take extra lessons and take the exam again.  My instructor was also surprised with the result.  But we cannot do anything about the decision because the examiner was the authority.

Because I really needed to have driver’s license, my instructor in Quick Pass Driving School asked me to have additional 3 session and he even gave me discounts and extra services.

I really praise and thank God even though I failed the exam.  I have learnt a lot and I was reminded of my calling to holiness.  My faith has been tested, the intentions have been purified, and my heart was strengthened.

FAILURE IS ONLY A MEAN, NOT THE END

“Every failure is an opportunity to trust in the Lord and love Him more.”

My failure in the driving examination was not the end for me; rather it was a chance for me to be more prayerful, to glorify God, and to trust Him MORE!  It also gave me more opportunities to reflect on myself and check if I was becoming the person that the Lord wants me to be.

The Lord is using my failure for His victory in my life.  He is molding me into the person that He want me to be.  My failure has become a way for me to witness the mighty strength of God.  I have realized that if the Lord has provided me a car for this mission, he will also provide me the necessary things needed to use it.

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

“Patience is the endurance under difficult circumstances.  It is perseverance in God.”

After 2 weeks after my first exam, I took 3 additional lessons in three straight days.  They were another days of waking up very early in the morning.  But this time, I was more eager to take it knowing that the Lord has something in store for me.  And on the fourth day I took my driving examination for the second time.

I had the same procedure as the first exam. I took the Highway Code Examination and I thank God that I passed it again.  They asked me again to wait for the examiner at the parking area. I was standing beside the car and was praying while waiting for the examiner.  I prayed that the Lord may bless my heart again so that I may act and think according to His will.

I was not hoping to pass the exam, I craved for something more important – I was hoping that I may see God again in this experience and be closer to Him.

I was waiting for 30 minutes and there was no-show from the examiner.  I asked my instructor and he said to wait for a little longer.  One hour passed by and the examiner has not yet arrived, I told the instructor about the concern and told me that the examiner went to the bank and will be coming for a while.  It was already 12:30 at noon and I have been waiting for more than two hours and I did not see any examiner.

I asked my instructor what might have happened to the examiner.  He told me that the examiner came back an hour ago and he said that no examiner was available to entertain me because they were all busy that morning.  So the Road Traffic Officers asked me to come back at 1:30 pm.  My examination was supposedly at 9:45 in the morning!  Usually, I complain in times like this but I reminded myself to maintain my patience and agree with what they want to happen.

I took my lunch somewhere and came back before 1:30 pm.  Finally, at around 2:00 pm, an examiner approached me and it was a different man from the first exam.  We started my examination.  I was surprised that he was talking to me during my exam.  He was asking me personal questions and I was answering him properly.  Maybe, he wanted to know me or maybe, he was just distracting me as a part of the exam.  Whatever it is, I was maintaining my focus the whole time.

Like my first exam, the examiner also asked me to do certain car maneuvers like “right reverse” and “full “turn at the round about”.  He asked me to do the “3 turns”.  It is their way of making “U-turn” on narrow roads.  I was caught off-guard and made an error, I went outside the road.  I made a mistake in the maneuver that I practiced for more than 30 times.  It was probably over-confidence.  The Lord humbled me through that error and wanted me to witness something great that was about to happen. After few more maneuvers, we went back to the RTD and there I waited for the result.

MY GOD IS MY SAVIOR

“God indeed is my Savior; I am confident and unafraid.  My strength and courage is the Lord, and He has been my Savior.” Isaiah 12:2

I have heard several times from both Malawians and Filipinos that a slight error in the driving exam is enough to make you fail.  So while waiting for the result, I told God that I accept my error and I am willing to take another examination for the third time.  But I trust God that I will witness His mighty strength.  I was expecting to see great things from the Lord.

And then, the Lord has made His move.  My name was called for the result.  They asked me to enter a room where my examiner told me the great news!  “Mr. Ramos, congratulations! You pass the examination!”  A big smile came to my face for I did not really expect it.  I was so happy not only because I passed but because I saw what the Lord has done for me.

I made an error but God still passed me!  I was already defeated but He has won the battle for me!  “Talo na, nai-panalo pa!”  The Lord has made this experience so sweet.  He has held me so secured during the hardship and trials that I underwent.  The experience was very triumphant because the fierce battle was won by the Lord.

I already have my driver’s license and I have been driving for two weeks.  I have already traveled my first 300 kilometers with the mission car and the feeling of travelling under the Lord’s caravan of love is very satisfying and fulfilling.

My license is not just an ordinary license.  It is a reminder of how mighty the Lord is and that great things will surely happen if I allow His strength, not mine, to work in any situation I am in.  It is also a reminder for me that His love and mercy is prevailing in my life.  It is a license to extend that love and mercy to all creatures of earth, regardless of the circumstances.

My prayer is that I may not forget this experience, how the Lord strength has saved me.  I pray that through the vehicle and the “license” He has provided, more and more people may experience His love and mercy.  Everything is for His greater glory.

Way of the Cross


I had my first Lent here in Malawi and I had been looking forward to it since I came here.  I wondered what kind of Lent I would be experiencing here. Lenten retreats, recollections, and other programs are being offered to the Christians but not as many as in the Philippines.  I miss the Philippines’ Lenten traditions: The “Senakulo” (a drama about the journey of Jesus to Calvary or Golgotha), “Pabasa”, “Way of the Cross/ Station of the Cross or Via Crusis”, “Moriones”, processions, “Visita Iglesia” and many more.  These give emphasis to the season and help Catholics to have meaningful reflection of the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Though Malawi does not have much of these traditions similar to my country, I have proven that one can still have meaningful and solemn Lent in various ways, and it is up to the person to take the opportunities that the Lord has given to us.  The churches offer daily Mass, retreats and seminars.  Different congregations also offer recollections.  Or if you desire something new, you can have the “Way of the Cross” on a mountain.

Last April 2, third Saturday of Lent, God has allowed me to experience something different.  Together with some members of our host family, I had my “Way of the Cross” at Mount Michiru, Chilomoni, in Southern Malawi.

My usual way is to do it in a church of my choice.  I will approach each portrait or image, either in sculptures or in paintings, of the “15 Stations of the Cross” one by one, recite litanies, reflect on each station and say my own prayers to God.

It was an exhausting 2 hours hike from the small shrine at the foot of the mountain. Wooded with tall Gum trees and rocks on the terrain towards the top. You will either get wet from rain showers or get burn by the heat of the sun.

We arrived at the shrine at around 8 in the morning and the sun was already hot. We met some familiar acquaintances who had also climbed the mountain.  Then, we joined a group of 50 people composed of a priest, nuns, Catholic organizations, and lay people.

My host gave me a booklet that guided me throughout my reflection. It has a printed cover that says “NJIRA YA MTANDA” (in Chichewa) or “Way of the Cross”.  It contains Bible verses, prayers and songs translated in both English and Chichewa, their national language.

Then after few minutes of waiting and chatting, we started the pilgrim.   And we started with a short prayer. We were singing a local church song as we move slowly to the first station.  All songs and payers were recited and sung in Chichewa throughout the pilgrim.  I thanked God that I had a booklet written in English which helped me on my meditation.

After some 50 meters trek from the starting point, we reached the first Station – “Jesus is condemned to Death”.  I saw a metal cross about 6 feet height, painted with color orange, and next to it was a bronze sculpture with height and width of about 6 by 5 feet, depicting the image of Jesus with his persecutors, marking the station.  We went down on our knees on the rocky soil and prayed, I recited the English prayer and I had to whisper it to avoid any possible distraction to other pilgrims.

After few minutes of kneeling and praying, we stood up and started trekking towards the next station.  It caught my attention that majority of the group members were actually men of different ages, both young and not so old.  And there were some women carrying their babies at their back using blankets.  I was amazed on how serious and focused in praying the men were

We reached the second station – “Jesus Carry His Cross” – which was located in a higher terrain.  There were also the six-foot orange cross and the bronze sculpture next to it.  I looked upon the sculpture and imagined the scene.  And great astonishment came to me on how Jesus Christ denied Himself of His divinity, embraced and carried His cross, and took the first step to Calvary.  For me, that was a perfect act of self – denial.

After reciting and singing a song on knees, we advanced to the third station – “Jesus Falls the First Time”.

I noticed that we were not alone.  There were many other people in different groups; they were either ahead of us or at our tail.  And because of the limited space in every station, only one group can be entertained at a time.  There were times that we waited for some groups to finish.

The sun was setting high above the sky and the temperature was rapidly rising, I started to feel the sweat going down my whole body and my throat drying up.  It was unfortunate because I did not bring any bottled water or a towel with me.  Though there were trees that gave us shades from the sun’s UV rays, we did not escape from the rising temperature.  And though it was irritating, I just tried to focus on my prayers.  The heat of the sun kept on rising up.

We reached the fourth station – “Jesus Meets His Mother” – and I saw again a six-foot orange cross which dominated the scene.  Upon reading my booklet, I came across a sentence that says, “A station dedicated to all mothers and pilgrims!”  I have remembered my mother who is in the Philippines.  And I really thank God for her who gave birth and raised me in this world.  I thank God for all the mothers in the world who embrace their calling of being part of God’s plan to pro-create – to bring life into the world.

In the fifth station, “Simon of Cyrene Helped Jesus Carry His Cross”.  We continued our walk, the sun was getting hotter, and my throat was getting drier.  The message of Jesus Christ to me was so strong, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow in My steps”.  I looked at the cross and I have remembered how Jesus Christ generously accepted the Father’s will and wholeheartedly carried His cross.  He has motivated me to keep my phase and focus on Him.

I was somehow relieved when we reached the sixth station – “Veronica Wipes Jesus’ Face” – because a big cloud suddenly covered the hot sun and a cool breeze gushed to my body.  It was like God soothing our tired bodies.  The sudden change of weather gave us a short comfort.  I somehow thought that it was God’s breathe telling that His presence is with us.

I have imagined how “Jesus Christ fell the second time” (seventh station), how dramatic the scene was.  The angry people rushed towards Him shouting and threatening.  Some were holding the cross and some were pulling His hair, and maybe some were hitting Him with hard objects.  There could even some who spat on Him while His bloody and tired body was touching the ground.   The scene was terrible, but He still stood up and continued His walk towards His crucifixion and death, focused on one goal of saving everyone souls from eternal death because of our sinfulness, including mine!

As we climb the mountain, I have remembered Jesus climbing the Calvary where He met tearful women of Jerusalem (eighth station).  He found the strength to console them, despite the much pains, prevailing hate and violence toward Him.  The women pitied Him because of His sufferings.  Jesus Christ was actually the one who extended His compassion, not just to the children and women of Jerusalem, but to all humanity whose sins were the real cause of His sacrifices.

My body fatigue continued and my steps were going slow as we move toward the ninth station – Jesus Falls the Third Time.  I was exhausted, my legs and feet were aching, and my shirt was wet because of the sweat.  I told to myself that my exhaustion is nothing compare to the exhaustion of Jesus when He fell the third time (ninth station).  He was so exhausted that He can barely stand up.  He was crushed by the weight of His sufferings.  Never had our Savior been seen like this, the Man of pain, despised, trampled, and rejected by mankind.  He suffered and did not say a word, like a Lamb that let itself be taken to be slaughtered.

We continued the hike towards the tenth station – “Jesus is stripped” – and there I noticed that the space surrounding the station was full of rocks and boulders.  I looked for a place where I can comfortably kneel down because my knees were also aching.  I found no such space so I had chosen instead a big flat rock to kneel.  While i was kneeling, my knees and legs were shaking and it seemed that I cannot last longer.  I have remembered that it was in this station that Jesus Christ, in spite of His great sufferings and the physical exhaustion, was still able to stand up and He did it with majestic royalty.  I can only imagine His endurance and perseverance despite the situation.  My knees were aching but I have bowed down to the Prince of Peace.

We approached the eleventh station – “Jesus is Nailed to the Cross” – and my reflection became more intense despite the fatigue I was experiencing.  How Jesus Christ endured all those sufferings?  It must be His great love for all of us that motivated Him to accept those humiliations, the inflicted pain of those whips that ripped His flesh, to carry the heavy cross and finally, the three pieces of eight inches nails that pierced His flesh, which actually were the only things that kept Him suspended on the cross.  It must have been His love for me.  I told myself that if I love Jesus Christ, I must also endure not just the sufferings I am having in this pilgrimage, but also all the pains and sufferings that I am experiencing and will experience in this mission.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He has the full authority and power as God to strike down His persecutors and stop them.   With His power He can just say that everyone’s sins have been forgiven without undergoing such sacrifices.  But Jesus is the God who humbled Himself and became a man, and endured everything out of His great love for us.  By His grace, I will also endure all sufferings that are on me and ahead of me, out of my love for Him and for my neighbors.  God chose His mercy the love to prevail.

While I was getting nearer the twelfth station – “Jesus Dies on the Cross” – the terrain was getting steeper, and it was harder to climb.  We reached the twelfth station and there we kneeled and prayed again.  I kept on thinking the death of Jesus Christ. It must be who should die because of my sins, and I am guilty of it.  Jesus Christ was blameless and yet He was the one who was condemned with criminal persecution and death.  He is sinless and without blemish.  I have so many sins and yet I was saved from eternal death.  He is my Lord and yet He died for me.  “I thank you Lord Jesus Christ for suffering and drying for the forgiveness of my sins and those of the whole world!”

Jesus was taken down from the cross (thirteenth station) by few faithful to the Master.  Mother Mary and a few close ones remained under the cross.  They remained and compassionately recovered the lifeless body of Jesus Christ.  His death has paid the great price for my sins, the extreme act of enormous sacrifice that was about to be completed.  An innocent blood was shed instead of mine.

We reached the fourteenth station where “Jesus was laid in the tomb”.  A grave was assigned to Jesus among the wicked and evildoers, though He had done no sins nor spoken any falsehood.  He freely gave up His life as an offering for our sins and for the accomplishment of God’s will through Him.

In was written in Isaiah 53: 9-12, that through Jesus suffering, He shall justify the many, and our guilt He shall bear.  God will give Him His portion among the great and He shall divide the spoils with the mighty.  Because Jesus surrendered Himself to death and was counted among the wicked, He shall take away our sins and win pardon for our offenses.  The plan of God the Father was so great and mighty, and it came into fulfillment through the resurrection of Jesus Christ our savior

After one hour and forty-five minutes of trekking, we finally reached the top of Mount Michiru.  I saw the vast clear blue sky with few big nimbus clouds floating in the air.  I saw the whole town of Chilomoni from the top.  The town was wooded with big Jacaranda and Gum trees.  Although the sun was so hot, I still felt the cool breeze of the wind and it was really refreshing.  It was spectacular and so relaxing that I almost forgot the hardship that I had during the whole pilgrimage.

But what made reaching the top extra ordinary was when I beheld the big, vertically erected, concrete cross that marks the end of the pilgrimage and the cross can actually be seen several miles from the mountain.  I felt so great and amazed upon seeing the cross.  Wow!  I imagined that it was mount Calvary, where Jesus was crucified and died.  I imagined it where Jesus Christ won the battle against the devil and finally paid the great price for the salvation of all.

The trekking was like the time when Jesus Christ walked with His cross towards mount Calvary; it was full of pains and hardships.  But at the end of it was victory and glory when He was nailed and died on the cross for the salvation of all.  The view, the big cross, the cool breeze, and the idea that I reached the top were also victory and glory.

I was amazed by the idea that after more than an hour of walking and trekking (hardship), I found the cross, I found Jesus Christ (hope) at the end of it.  The cross on top represents the fulfillment of the promise of God through Jesus, who suffered, died and conquered death by His resurrection so that we all may live.

While on the top of the mountain, the priest who was with us led us into the final prayer and gave the blessing to all the pilgrims in our group.  And after that, we were encouraged to continue reflecting and praying as we rested under the cross.  Then we walked again for fifteen minutes back to the shrine.  I was really happy and privilege while on our way down, that I have been reminded of one of the most important thing about my faith and that is Jesus Christ and His way of the cross.  And as a disciple, I have been called to “deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus”.

I am really thankful to the Lord that He has allowed me to experience this pilgrimage.  More than the view and the tradition, what made it special and memorable was that I have met Jesus Christ on the mountain and I have reflected His way of the cross in a different manner.

And I might forget our climb in Mount Michiru but I will not forget the cross of Christ.  In that manner, I will always be reminded how much the Lord loved me and that He paid a great price to ransom my life and experience an everlasting life with Him.

“Here I Am, Send Me!”


Around four in the afternoon of September 11, 2010, I, together with my mission partner arrived at Chileka airport in Malawi for a two-year mission work in the “Warm Heart” country of Africa.  We travelled for more than 30 hours, both land and air, before we had set our foot in this wonderful part of Africa.  Set with my clothes, laptop, books and my Bible, I have embarked to this journey with only two things in my mind – to grow in holiness and to evangelize; to grow more in relationship with God and to share the person of Jesus Christ as our savior to the people living here.

But everything before this was not easy.

I was surprised when my leaders (they are also my friends) have asked me to go on mission in Africa.  Then slowly, it sinked in my mind, I had started hesitating and become uncertain.  I had looked into myself to see if I am fit for the mission.  And my conclusion was, “I am not!”  But still, I discerned for it right away.  And my fears and hesitations made it hard for me.

There was a long list of queries that I wanted answers.  “Why me Lord? Am I worthy for this mission?  There are others better than me”.  My human nature had surfaced and said to me that I am unworthy, I am weak.

I would be dishonest to God and to myself if I do not admit that I thought of refusing this mission because of some reasons which I was afraid to let go.  There were some things holding me.  I was reluctant at some point because I was attached to my own comfort zones.  I was afraid to leave them.  I was afraid to leave my family who was at that time currently facing a financial problem and was about to lose our home.  I don’t want to leave my friends in CFC FFL whom I have been with for so long time, and my work which I have loved and embraced.  I was afraid to leave my whole life in the Philippines.

I know very well from the start that it was God who has called me, but I was not listening to Him.  I had closed the ears of my heart and listened instead to my human voice.  I tried to argue with myself that I need to stay in the Philippines and take care of important things.  But the voice of God was louder than my voice, even louder than any noise in this world.  Loud enough to be heard even I had closed my ears.  So loud that it had always waked me up in the middle of my sleep.

Then, I remembered the story of the 12 Apostles when Jesus Christ called them to follow Him.  Jesus called them by names and they had responded with reckless abandon!  They left everything behind knowing that there is no glory at the end of the road and they will not get rich in this world.  Their only assurance was that they were sure that it was Jesus who called them.  In one of my evening prayers, God has told me to do the same and be certain that it was Him who called me, to have my confidence and to entrust everything to Him.

He has asked me to leave my life in my country and everything that I love most and take up the challenges of being in a far away land.  To follow Him to live a holy life dedicated to the same great commission that Jesus Christ has entrusted to His Apostles some 2000 years ago – to proclaim His Gospel to the ends of the Earth.

My discernment has led me back to the basic and the most important thing of all.  I was led to the very core and reason why I have been called.  I have been directed back to Christ, who is the very reason of this mission!

How funny it is because it was actually I who made it hard for me to abandon everything and follow the call.  I focused on my own voice and not on the voice who is calling.  But God has purified my intentions and desires.  He has let me realized many things that led me to a conclusion that the only reason I need is Jesus Christ Himself, for he is the way, the truth, and the light.  But he has not allowed me to understand even a single thing about His plan for this mission, He just wanted me to trust Him with no questions asked, PERIOD!

I was hesitant and afraid at first but His presence has never been so strong that it conquered my hesitations and fears.  His mercy and grace have been overflowing in my life that He has become my strength and courage.

Then one day I have come across a verse from the book of Isaiah and it says there how the prophet Isaiah responded when God asked him whom shall He send to the people of Israel.  And the prophet immediately responded with full confidence, “Here I am, send me!”

I have realized that the reason why Isaiah responded like that was because he had known God who removed his wickedness and purged his sins.  God also has done it to me.  He has removed all my blemishes and wickedness, and allowed me live a wonderful life with Him.  I have said to myself that I should be like Isaiah who responded with confidence; I should be like the Apostles who responded with reckless abandon.

“Here I am, Lord.  Send me!  Send me to the ends of the Earth.  Send me to Malawi” I finally was able to respond to God’s call.  With full confidence and courage in Him, I accepted His call for this mission.  It has been because of His love for me that i have responded. For He has made uncertain things certain with His grace, He has transformed my fear into courage with His mercy, and He has answered my questions with His love.

I have been here for six months already and the Lord has never ceased in showing me His faithfulness and grace.  He has never let a day passed by without letting me experience His great love for me.  Each day has been a chance for me to know Jesus Christ more and more.

Despite the trials and crosses which I have been embracing, I am happy and blessed that I am here.  It has been my pleasure to be part of God’s great plan for the Malawians, and I am much excited as I witness how He works in their individual and communal lives.  It fills my heart with gladness to see and hear stories of personal transformation in Jesus Christ.  Nothing beats the fulfillment I get from seeing people’s lives change as I serve the Lord.

I am looking forward on how the Lord will move and manifest His great power to my life and to the lives of the people living here.  And how everyone will witness and acknowledge the greatness of our Lord.

Like what I have said, my only motivation is grow in personal holiness in Jesus Christ and to bring some along with me, it is up to the Lord how many it would be.  As I experience so much grace from the Lord through the things I have been seeing and experiencing, I can say with full confidence that God is really my strength, my courage, and my savior.  I will not be afraid to abandon and to lose everything for the greater glory of His name.

God bless Malawi!

How to Celebrate the Season of Lent


The word “Lent” comes from the Latin word “Quadragesima” which means “fourtieth day” and refers to 40 days of penance. Lent also means “spring”, it can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for looking inside our spirit and then cleaning out those things which hinder our communal and personal relationships with Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s resurrection on Eastern Sunday, through which we attain the forgiveness of our sins. Moreover, the purpose of Lent is to be a season of self-denial, spiritual growth, conversion, and simplicity

Lent is a journey, accompanying Jesus as He travels to Jerusalem, the place where the mystery of His Passion, Death and Resurrection (Paschal Mystery) is to be fulfilled. The Christian life is a narrow “road” to be travelled, consisting of laws, teachings and traditions that need to be observed in the person of Christ Himself, who must be encountered, welcomed and followed.

The actual practices and duration of the season of Lent in the Church can be a little bit tricky and have different views in the Church and it varies based on the location and period. There are different views on this and the Church does not have any concencus about it

One view is that the duration of the 40 days of Lent starts from Ash Wednesday until Holy Saturday. Sundays are excluded in counting the 40 days. The rationale for this is that Lent is a season of fasting and abstinence and it is inappropriate for Sundays, being the Lord’s Day.

Another view is that it starts from Ash Wednesday until the mass of Holy Thursday where Sundays are excluded. However, Lenten fasting and penance continue until the end of the Holy Week.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the season. The Church encourages everyone to hear mass and receive ashes by our forehead which should not be removed until sun down.

Why do we receive ashes on Ash Wednesday?

Following the example of the Ninevites who did penance in sackcloth and ashes (God sent Jonah to Ninevah with the mission to tell the Ninevites that “their wickedness has come up before the Lord, forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed!” The Ninevites believed God and immediately started to repent by showing it they covered themselves with sackcloth and the king sitted on ashes). Our foreheads are marked with ashes (instead of wearing sackcloths) to humble our hearts and remind us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told “Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

The ash is a symbol of “penance” made sacramental by the blessing of the Church. By receiving it on our foreheads, it helps us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice as we seek God’s mercy and forgiveness for our sins.

The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony in earlier times. Christians who had committed grave sins performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the christened palms used on Palm Sunday of the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents wearing the sackcloths with ashes on it were turned out of the church because of their sins – just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday after having done reconciliation by way of the forty days penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians came to receive ashes out of devotion. In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession which is not now being practiced

The Ashes

The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they also remind us that we are called to repent. To seek God’s mercy and forgiveness, keeping in mind that He is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts.

His divine mercy is the most important thing during the season of Lent. A true, sincere repentance is needed from us and not just a matter of observance and rituals. And part of this repentance is doing our “Acts of Penitence”. These acts help us achieve our desire to do righteous deeds and to turn away from all wrongdoings. We do these without any show, believing that God sees and hears us, and that He will grant us His grace and mercy.

Let us look at the Acts of Penitence.

Alms-giving

Lent has been a traditional time of helping and doing acts of charity and mercy to others especially to the poor, both materially and spiritually. This is a year round calling for all Christians, to practice the virtue of generosity. Aside from Advent and Christmas seasons, Lent is also the good time to look for ways to get involve in charitable activities and to make resolutions to actually do them.

Giving alms can be done in more ways than just giving out money to people on streets. It can also be understood as sharing our time and talent to people nearest to us. Start helping our family, friends, and neighbors. In addition, one best way to give alms is to get out of our comfort zone a little bit, it can be by volunteering for a charity work or a shelter program of a foundation, maybe by helping an orphanage school or visiting a home for the aged.

There are so many ways to do acts of charity and mercy that we can do. We can do as much as we desire but we must always remind ourselves and keep in our hearts that we do this to praise God and not us to be praised.

Praying

Lent is a good time to develop and strengthen a discipline of daily prayer. It is the perfect time for us to form the habits of “daily personal prayer time” and daily “Bible reading”.

A good goal for Lent would be to have a morning and evening prayers everyday, where in praying the “Morning Prayer” and the “Evening Prayer” can be used. There are lots of appropriate forms of prayers that reflect the penitential mood of Lent and bring us to the condition of reflection as we repent. There are Lenten prayers like “Seven Penitential Psalms”, “The Decalogue”, “The Stations of the Cross” and “Litany of the Precious Blood”. We can also find some from the Scriptures like in the book of Psalms. Attending “Novenas”, praying the “Holy Rosary” and “Divine Mercy Chaplet” can also be rewarding.

It is also a good discipline for Lent to make an effort to attend worship services in your Catholic community or in you parish whenever possible. Attending the daily Mass would also be very rewarding.

There are more than enough forms of prayers that we can recite everyday for the whole season of Lent and every prayer aims to bring us in a state of repentance, asking God for his forgiveness. And we only need to do is ask the Lord and it shall be given to us, seek Him and we shall find Him, knock His heaven’s door and it will be opened to us with full of grace and mercy.

Fasting

The Western Rite of the Catholic Church requires its members age 18 to 59 to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, unless a physical condition prevents otherwise. This means only one full meal is permitted. The Fridays of Lent are days of required abstinence, meaning any food made out of or with meat (pork, beef, chicken, etc), are not permitted to eat. Abstinence is required of those ages 14 and older. Eastern Christians have a more meticulous fast, abstaining from meat, wine, oil, dairy products, and even fish.

Fasting is all about giving up something from us. It can be food or things that we have an inordinate desire for. It can also be bad habits or attitudes that keep us away from the grace of God. The best thing to give up is our desire to do sin, and the sins that we repeatedly doing. Lent represents a spiritual training time to overcome evil that is inside our hearts. This is what we have called for, to live a life away from evil and live a life of holiness with God. It is said that the best way to remove vice is to cultivate virtue.

Fasting is also embracing the discipline of simplicity, self-control and self-denial. By giving up things, we learn to control a particular part of our lives, which leads to greater self-discipline and holiness even when Lent is over. We learn to get under control our material and emotional excesses.

By denying ourselves from any desire, tends us to focus our whole being to God who in return pours us with something better in its place and something more important than anything in this world – His grace and mercy.

Alms-giving, prayer and fasting are inseperable. We cannot pick one and discard the other. They are all with same importance and go hand in hand. Everyone has called to practice these three and Lord Jesus Christ told us that when we do them, do with sincerity and humility of heart. For God the Father looks at what is hidden inside our hearts. And He, who sees what is hidden, will repay us.

Lent Is About God

Lent is not just about external observances or rituals. These are just tools to help us experience the true meaning of Lent. They were given to us by the One who is the main reason why we are having this season. The Lent is about experiencing the presence of Jesus Christ as we journey towards holiness. It is about God who is gracious and merciful. And because of His goodness, has called us to go back to Him in repentance to be with Him in His kingdom in the life after this.

How To Have A Good Confession


A GUIDE TO A GOOD CONFESSION

In the Sacrament fo Reconciliation (confession), we encounter Jesus Christ, who after rising from the dead breathed the Holy Spirit on His Apostles – the first priests – and gave them the power to forgive sins in His name (Jn 20:23).  The Heart of Christ burns with love for us and He wants us to experience His immense and unfathomable mercy by confessing our sins and receiving His forgiveness.  This Sacrament gives us the consolation of God’s pardon and strengthens our relationship with Christ and His Church.

PRAYER TO OUR LADY BEFORE CONFESSION

Mary, Mother of Jesus and my Mother; your Son died on a cross for me.  Help me to confess my sins humbly and with trust in the mercy of God, that I may receive His pardon and peace.

RECOGNIZING SIN AND GROWING IN HOLINESS

As followers of Jesus, we need to examine our lives and recognize our sinful thoughts, words, deeds and omissions so that we can bring them to God for forgiveness.  Such an examination   of conscience should be done regularly, always with trust in God’s mercy and love and in the power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We all sin, but we do not all acknowledge our sins.  It takes honesty and courage to reflect upon our refusals of God’s grace and our rejections of His law and love.  Contemporary society is often blind to the reality of sin and sometimes even presents sinful behaviors or lifestyles as positive goods to be sought and desired.  In his encyclical Reconciliation and Penance (1984), Pope John Paul II suggests that the defining sin of modern times is the “loss of the sense of sin” and reminds us of St. John’s warning: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (Jn 1:8)

SIN is the deliberate violation of God’s law.  Although sin promises illusory goods or happiness, it results in harm to the sinner, who is always the primary victim of sin.  The Church teaches that there are two kinds of sin: mortal and venial.  Mortal sin is deliberate and free of choice of something known to be seriously wrong that destroys our friendship with God and separates us from Him (cf 1 Jn 5: 16-17).

All of the following three conditions must be met for a sin to be mortal: (1) it must be something serious; (2) it must be done with sufficient knowledge of its gravity; and (3) it must be done with sufficient freedom of the will.  Venial sin is a minor offense against God’s law that hurts our relationship with God but does not destroy it.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the ordinary way to have our sins forgiven.  It is an encounter with the mercy of the living God, who meets us where we are in our weakness and our sins, and it powerfully deepens our psychological and spiritual growth.  The source of many graces, it should be celebrated regularly and whenever the need is felt.  Monthly confession is a healthy and effective means of growing closer to God and leading a balanced, Christ-centered lifestyle.

CONTRITION

We need contrition or sorrow for our sins, to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and contrition must include a firm purpose to amend our life and avoid the near occasions of sin – that is, the situations, persons, places and  the things that lead us to sin.  Sorrow for sin is very different from sadness or self-hatred.  As we draw closer to God, our sense of sin and sorrow for sin become deeper, just as do our joy, peace of heart, and purity of conscience.

ACT OF CONTRITION

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love.  I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin.

HOW TO GO TO CONFESSION

  • Pray to the Holy Spirit for self-knowledge and trust in the mercy of God.  Examine your conscience, be truly sorry for your sins and resolve to change your life.
  • Go to the priest and begin with the Sign of the Cross.  Welcoming you, the priest will say: “May God, who has enlightened every heart, help you to know your sins and trust in his mercy,” or similar words taken from Scriptures.  You answer: “Amen.”   Then say, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.  It has been ___ weeks/ months/ years since my last confession.”
  • Confess your sins openly and candidly.  Tell the priest of all mortal sins and the number of times each was committed, and then you may confess some of your venial sins.  (Although it is not strictly necessary to confess venial sins, the Church recommends that you do).  If you do not know whether a sin is mortal or venial, as the priest.  If you have no moral sins, confess venial sins you have committed since your last confession; you may also mention some mortal sin from your past life which you are particularly sorry, indicating that it has already been confessed.
  • Then listen to the priest for whatever counsel he may judge appropriate.  If you have any question about the faith, how to grow in holiness, or whether something is a sin, feel free to ask him.  Then the priest will assign you a penance.
  • Pray the Act of contrition when the priest tells you.
  • Listen as priest absolves you of your sins and enjoy the fact that God has truly freed you from all your sins.  If you forget to confess a mortal sin, you are still forgiven, but must mention it the next time you go to confession.
  • Do the penance the priest assigns you.

If you are anxious of unsure of what to do, take this guide with you ro tell the priest and he will make it easier for you.

AN EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE

1. I am the Lord your God.  You shall not have strange gods before me.

  • Do I seek to love God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all of strength (Dt 6:5)? Do I put anything or anyone above God? Do I pray daily?
  • Have I had any involvement with the occult, witchcraft, wicca, Ouija boards, stances, tarot cards, new age crystals, fortune-telling, or the like? Have I put faith in horoscope?
  • Have I received Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin?
  • Have I abused the Sacrament of Penance by lying to the priest or deliberately not confessing a mortal sin?
  • Have I denied a truth of the faith out of concern for the respect or opinion of others?

2. You shall not take the name of the Lord you God in vain?

  • Have I used God’s holy name irreverently?
  • Have I blasphemed God, the Church, Mary, the saints, or sacred places or things?

3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

  • Do I try to keep Sunday as a day of prayer, rest and relaxation, avoiding unnecessary work?
  • Have I deliberately come late or left early from Mass without a good reason?

4. Honor you father and your mother.

  • Do I honor and respect my parents?
  • Have I deliberately hurt my parents?
  • Do I treat my children with love and respect?
  • Do I support and care for the well-being of all family members?
  • Have I neglected family duties?
  • Do I honor and obey my lawful superiors?

5. You shall not kill.

  • Have I deliberately harmed anyone?
  • Have I had an abortion or encouraged an abortion?
  • Have I attempted suicide or seriously considered it?
  • Have I abused drugs or alcohol?
  • Have I had anyone to sin through bad example or through direct encouragement?

6. You shall not commit adultery.

For the married

  • Am I faithful to my spouse in thought and action?
  • Have I used artificial contraception or been sterilized?
  • Was I married outside the Church without proper permission of the Church?

For the unmarried

  • Have I engaged in sexual activity with anyone of either sex?

For all

  • Have I deliberately viewed pornographic magazines, images, videos or internet websites?
  • Have I masturbated?
  • Have I used impure language or told impure jokes?
  • Do I dress modesty?
  • Have I had sex with any animals?

7. You shall not steal.

  • Have I stolen or accepted stolen goods?
  • Have I deliberately destroyed the property of others?
  • Have I cheated anyone of what I owe?
  • Do I gamble excessively?
  • Do I share what I have with the poor and the Church according to my means?
  • Have I pirated materials: videos, music, software?

8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  • Have I lied?  Have I sworn falsely?
  • Have I plagiarized or been academically dishonest?
  • Have I gossiped?  Have I revealed secrets or confidential information without good reason?
  • Have I ruined the good name of others by spreading lies or maliciously revealing their faults and sins?

9. You shall not desire you neighbor’s wife?

  • Have I deliberately and consciously permitted sexual thoughts about anyone besides my spouse?
  • Do I guard my imagination and senses?
  • Have I watched shows, plays, pictures or movies that contain impure scenes with the deliberate intention of being aroused by them?  Am I responsible about what I read?

10. You shall not desire you neighbor’s goods.

  • Am I envious of the possessions, abilities, talents, beauty or success of others?

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

  • Do I love my neighbor?  Is there anyone whom I do not love or refuse to love?  Have I wished harm or misfortune or anyone?
  • Do I forgive from my heart those who have hurt me?  Or I harbor hatred or grudges?  Do I pray for my enemies?
  • Have I ridiculed or humiliated others?
  • Do I seek to help others in need?
  • Do I love myself as God loves me?  Do I care for my physical, emotional, and spiritual health?
  • Do I forgive myself for my sins after bringing them to God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

Precepts of the Church.

  • Have I deliberately missed Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day of obligation without a serious reason?
  • Do I go to confession at least once a year when I have serious sins to confess?
  • Do I receive Holy Communion, at least once during Easter time?
  • Do I take part in the major feasts celebrating Our Lord, Virgin Mary, and the saints?
  • Do I abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent (for ages 14 and over) and fast on one full meal on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (for ages 18-59)?  Do I fast for one hour before Holy Communion (water and medicine allowed)?
  • Do I contribute to support the material needs of the Church?

Taken from  “A Guide to Confession” by Knights of Columbus.